Senate Democrats want to amend the Constitution so they could by force of law limit the amount of money their opponents spend to try to unseat them in elections.
Now, Democrats tell a different story: That they are trying to eliminate the influence of big money and “dark money” in political campaigns, to enshrine in the Constitution “campaign finance reform” so that no U.S. Supreme Court can overturn it.
Embedding their incumbent protection scheme in our Constitution would eviscerate the First Amendment right of free speech. In a nation of 315 million people spanning a vast continent, it takes a lot of money in national elections, but also in statewide contests and some local ones, for a candidate or public spirited citizens to get a message across. Speech and money are inseparable in costly media and ground-game elections.
The impetus for this effort, debated in the Senate this week but thankfully with no chance of success since it would require 67 votes, is the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling in 2010 by the Supreme Court. It struck down a law prohibiting unions and corporations from spending money in elections.
Arguments before the high court revealed the expansive and repressive nature of the campaign law. The administration claimed it would permit the government to ban a book during campaign season.
Though Democrats cheer for the proposed amendment, which would also protect state campaign measures, liberals should consider that it could be used against them. In Texas, where Republicans predominate, the GOP candidate for governor is accusing his Democratic opponent, liberal icon Wendy Davis, of violating a prohibition on corporate giving. The corporate donation? Publication and promotion of her new book “Wendy Davis: Forgetting to Be Afraid.”
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