Leader McConnell: Obama “Declaring a War” on Free Speech By Using IRS to Target Political Dissent
Leader McConnell: Obama “Declaring a War” on Free Speech By Using IRS to Target Political Dissent
The Walls Close in on Civil Society
A few weeks ago, I wrote a column here entitled “America’s Fascist Moment.” I generally try to avoid such loaded terms in print, but the reason I used that other F-word was precisely because we’ve allowed its common connotation to obscure its actual meaning.
People usually associate ‘fascism ‘with the worst kinds of authoritarians, especially Adolf Hitler. And, true enough, Hitler was an extreme example of a fascist at work. Generally, however, fascism is a bit more subtle than that (really, though, what isn’t more subtle than the Third Reich?).
What the term actually means is erasing the lines between the state and civil society; ensuring that everything we do is tied to the government. In the famous formulation of Benito Mussolini, it’s “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” Needless to say, that’s about as far away as you can get from the traditional American notion of limited government, where the state is only valuable insofar as it serves the people, not the other way around (for the single best volume on this, I recommend Jonah Goldberg’s truly fantastic Liberal Fascism).
When history renders its ultimate judgment on the Obama Administration, any fair reading will note the deep fascist tendencies that pervade this Administration. If you need any proof, you need only look at the headlines of the past few days.
First, you’ve got the President exhorting his disciples to use Thanksgiving dinner to harangue family members about Obamacare, even going so far as to provide pages worth of printable talking points to his minions (I recently took this up at Ricochet).
Then you’ve got the Administration’s continued efforts to force employers to violate their consciences and provide birth control for their employees even if it violates the teachings of their faith, a fight that it was announced today will head to the Supreme Court in the spring.
Finally, there’s the news that Obama’s Treasury Department is proposing cracking down on tax-exempt status for non-profit groups that engage in what the Administration believes to be too much political activity. Liberals and conservatives alike should understand the grave danger that would come with giving the Executive Branch that kind of power to regulate political activity. There’s no such thing as a free polity where those in power get to punish those who aren’t simply for voicing their opinions.
Having a free society, however, doesn’t seem to be a priority for the Obama Administration. This is an Administration that would rather beat its enemies while violating the noblest traditions of American government than lose because they stood on principle. You’d be hard-pressed to think of another White House that ever threatened liberty so directly and so consistently.
Podcast: An Assault on Christmas and Free Speech
In an interview with CFIF, Robert Knight, senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times, discusses the most recent cases related to attempted bans on Christmas decorations, the ACLU’s threatened lawsuit over opening government meetings with a prayer and free speech versus the sound of silence.
Listen to the interview here.
Obama Continues Foreign Policy by Apology at the U.N.
In my column last week, I noted how preposterous it was that the Obama Administration continued to bend over backwards to distance itself from the video (falsely) claimed to have ignited the recent round of violence in the Middle East:
Speaking shortly after the attacks, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pronounced, “that the United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its content and message… to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible. It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose: to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage.”
Let’s assume for a moment that Clinton is right and that the film was made for the express purpose of working global Islam into a lather. Even taking that as a given, should the apology come from the nation of 300 million where one man produced some two-bit agritprop or from the part of the world where thousands took to the streets in violence because of a bit of inert satire tamer (and, remarkably, less coherent) than the average “Saturday Night Live” episode?
Speaking earlier today at the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama prolonged the inanity:
That [violence and intolerance] is what we saw play out the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity. It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well – for as the city outside these walls makes clear, we are a country that has welcomed people of every race and religion. We are home to Muslims who worship across our country. We not only respect the freedom of religion – we have laws that protect individuals from being harmed because of how they look or what they believe. We understand why people take offense to this video because millions of our citizens are among them.
I know there are some who ask why we don’t just ban such a video. The answer is enshrined in our laws: our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech.
Contra the president, this video doesn’t demonstrate “intolerance.” Stupidity? Yes. Bad filmmaking? Yes. Garden variety prejudice? Maybe. But being critical of the beliefs of others, even to the point of gratuitious rabble-rousing, is not the same thing as “intolerance.” The filmmakers were tolerating Islam; they weren’t advocating that anyone be silenced or harmed. By contrast, Islamists who engaged in violence to the point of cold-blooded murder ostensibly because of a YouTube video were the intolerant ones.
The cherry on top of this whole debacle was the President’s statement on the video to the ladies(?) of The View. As reported by the Weekly Standard:
In the age of the Internet, and you know, the way that any knucklehead who says something can post it up and suddenly it travels all around the world, you know, every country has to recognize that, you know, the best way to marginalize that kind of speech is to ignore it.
Not a terrible idea. And you know what’s a great way to begin implementing this strategy? Not devoting paragraphs to this film at the U.N. when we know that it wasn’t the catalyst for the recent blood lust.
Breaking: CFIF Wins Historic First Amendment Court Victory
This is why we do what we do, and why CFIF’s mission is important.
Today, in conjunction with the Hispanic Leadership Fund, CFIF secured a critical victory on behalf of the First Amendment rights to free speech and free association. In a unanimous decision that arrived just four days following oral argument on the issue, a notably quick turnaround time when rulings typically arrive months later, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed, vacated and remanded a recent lower court decision infringing upon the right of the people to engage in protected speech and associate in privacy. The case was initiated by Representative Chris Van Hollen (D – Maryland), who apparently never internalized the First Amendment’s explicit provision that, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
After reviewing the record with care, we conclude that the District Court erred in holding that Congress spoke plainly when it enacted 2 U.S.C. § 434(f), thus foreclosing any regulatory construction of the statute by the FEC. The statute is anything but clear, especially when viewed in the light of the Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizens United v. FEC, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), and FEC v. Wis. Right to Life, Inc. (“WRTL II”), 551 U.S. 449 (2007).”
This constitutes an enormous and welcome win for the freedoms of speech and association, one that all who value the First Amendment can celebrate.
Islamism’s Threat to Free Speech
From CNS News:
Six months after declaring that all churches in the Arabian peninsula should be destroyed, Saudi Arabia’s top cleric called at the weekend for a global ban on insults targeting all religious “prophets and messengers,” a category that, from a Muslim perspective, includes Jesus Christ.
Saturday’s demand by Saudi grand mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh came on the same day that another of Sunni Islam’s most prominent figures, Egypt’s Al-Azhar University grand imam Ahmed el-Tayyeb, made a similar appeal.
Lest we think this is a phenomenon isolated to the Middle East, let us remember that there is no idiotic attempt to suppress liberty abroad that won’t find a sympathetic ear in our own State Department. Under the Obama Administration, Foggy Bottom has gone out of its way to accommodate the Islamic world’s fervor for anti-blasphemy laws by acceding to sympathetic UN resolutions. This may seem like nothing more than superficial bridge-building, but we know the course these impulses can take in the West, as embodied by the growing trend of aggrieved Muslims attempting to use liberal sensitivity to “hate speech” as a way to exact punishment on their critics from the judicial system.
The islamists’ tactics give the lie to their ideology. On one hand, they want us to believe that they represent a powerful, ascendant culture. On the other, their attempts to forcibly silence their critics betrays a deep and pervasive insecurity.
Great societies disprove their detractors. Weak ones send them to the stocks.
Brevity Is the Soul of Sound Jurisprudence – Supreme Court Strengthens Free Speech
Somewhat lost amid today’s Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s SB 1070, the Court reinforced First Amendment free speech rights as affirmed in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In fact, the Court did so without the need for full review, oral argument and exhaustive written briefing. Demonstrating in this instance that brevity is the soul of sound jurisprudence, the Court in American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock overturned a Montana Supreme Court decision favoring a ban on political speech that flatly contradicted Citizens United. The single-page majority opinion is notable for its cogency:
A Montana state law provides that a “corporation may not make . . . an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political committee that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party.” Mont. Code Ann. §13–35–227(1) (2011). The Montana Supreme Court rejected petitioners’ claim that this statute violates the First Amendment. 2011 MT 328, 363 Mont. 220, 271 P. 3d 1. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, this Court struck down a similar federal law, holding that “political speech does not lose First Amendment protection simply because its source is a corporation.” 558 U. S. ___, ___ (2010) (slip op., at 26) (internal quotation marks omitted). The question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law. There can be no serious doubt that it does. See U. S. Const., Art. VI, cl. 2. Montana’s arguments in support of the judgment below either were already rejected in Citizens United, or fail to meaningfully distinguish that case.
The petition for certiorari is granted. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Montana is reversed.
It is so ordered.”
The First Amendment, the Constitution itself and free speech have been vindicated.
Scenes from a McCain Presidency
The margin of victory in the 2008 presidential race was so wide — and the election of Barack Obama so historic — that we rarely stop to imagine what it would have been like were we now well into the third year of John McCain’s presidency.
Needless to say, we’d be better off on a wide variety of fronts. McCain, a consistent fiscal hawk, not only wouldn’t have indulged in a record-setting debt binge like Barack Obama, he may well have made a serious run at entitlement reform. And as a stalwart advocate for a strong national defense, it seems overwhelmingly obvious that McCain would have taken a harder line with Iran than the “diplomacy at all costs” approach embraced by the Obama Administration.
In other areas, however, McCain would have been an utter nightmare. Can anyone imagine how one of the namesakes of the McCain-Feingold political speech law would have reacted to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision? Based on this report from the New York Times, it may have been even worse than Obama:
In his 2010 State of the Union address, President Obama roundly criticized the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, arguing that it had “reversed a century of law.” That practically sounds like a hymn of praise compared to what Senator John McCain had to say on “Meet the Press” this weekend. He called Citizens United: “arrogant, uninformed, naïve.” …
“I think there will be scandals associated with the worst decision of the United States Supreme Court in the 21st century,” he said. Referring to the justices on the Court, he added, “I just wish one of them had run for county sheriff.”
This was on the heels of McCain criticizing casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s contributions to Republican causes, saying that the fact that he owns a gaming facility in Macau could mean that “foreign money is coming into American political campaigns.”
This serves as one more reminder that, as McCain himself essentially told us four years ago, he’s basically an economic illiterate. Someone with foreign business interests donating to a political campaign is subversive of the integrity of domestic elections? Does Merrill Lynch, McCain’s biggest donor in 2008, only invest in domestic entities? Does Fed-Ex, another major donor, only ship within the 50 states? Since the obvious answer is no, how was McCain able to escape the corrupting influence of foreign money?
The point here is not to hammer those companies; quite the contrary. They were completely within their rights to give political donations, as is Adelson. The point is that McCain’s fetish for regulating political speech is both hypocritical and inimical to a free society. Giving government the power to regulate what free citizens may say about the government (and when and where they may say it) is a fundamental threat to liberty.
On this one front, at least, we can be happy that McCain was never able to bring the powers of the White House to bear.
Feminist Trio Trying to Use FCC to Shut Down Limbaugh
Oh, those champions of free expression on the left. From the Daily Caller:
Three stalwarts of the feminist movement — Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan — have added their voices to the calls to take radio giant Rush Limbaugh off the air.
The co-founders of The Women’s Media Center put pen to paper over the weekend to request that the public complain and urge the Federal Communications Commission to revoke the licenses of stations that carry “The Rush Limbaugh Show.”
“This isn’t political. While we disagree with Limbaugh’s politics, what’s at stake is the fallout of a society tolerating toxic, hate-inciting speech,” they wrote. “For 20 years, Limbaugh has hidden behind the First Amendment, or else claimed he’s really ‘doing humor’ or ‘entertainment.’ He is indeed constitutionally entitled to his opinions, but he is not constitutionally entitled to the people’s airways. It’s time for the public to take back our broadcast resources.”
It’s amazing, isn’t it? The left — which see McCarythism around every corner — instinctively turns to government force to squelch the opinions of those they despise. And as for “toxic, hate-inciting speech” … well, Limbaugh wasn’t the one cheering on the Viet Cong, Ms. Fonda.
Richmond Tea Party Gets Taxed While Occupiers Protest for Free
Here’s a story that serves as a great response to people who say there’s no difference between the Tea Party and Occupy movements. The Tea Party in Richmond, VA, got a business license, rally permits, and paid $10,000 for the privilege of exercising their First Amendment rights to speech and assembly. The Occupy Richmond mob, on the other hand, squatted on public property for days without jumping through any of the legal hoops that ensure the health and safety of a civilized society. When the Tea Party complained, the City of Richmond sent them an audit claiming the group failed to pay excise taxes for its events.
What hypocrisy! Lawbreakers are allowed to devalue public goods like parks while law-abiding citizens who follow the rules are sent an extra bill to pick up the tab. If local government officials aren’t careful they are going to teach all Americans that the rule of law only applies when you want it to. If that’s the governing philosophy going forward, it’s time to renegotiate the social contract.
H/T: Fox News
Obama Administration Cracks Down on Speaking Out Against the Regime
Those of us who objected to the federal bailout of the automotive industry were delighted when Ford recently launched this ad, playing up the fact that it didn’t take taxpayer money:
Apologies for the handheld quality, but there’s a reason for it: Ford has now pulled the ad — including taking down the YouTube version. And at least one of the sources of their newfound timidity seems to be in the White House. Daniel Howes, a columnist in the Detroit News, writes:
Ford pulled the ad after individuals inside the White House questioned whether the copy was publicly denigrating the controversial bailout policy CEO Alan Mulally repeatedly supported in the dark days of late 2008, in early ‘09 and again when the ad flap arose. And more.
With President Barack Obama tuning his re-election campaign amid dismal economic conditions and simmering antipathy toward his stimulus spending and associated bailouts, the Ford ad carried the makings of a political liability when Team Obama can least afford yet another one. Can’t have that.
The ad, pulled in response to White House questions (and, presumably, carping from rival GM), threatened to rekindle the negative (if accurate) association just when the president wants credit for their positive results (GM and Chrysler are moving forward, making money and selling vehicles) and to distance himself from any public downside of his decision.
Sources at the White House have been quick to insist that there was no actual pressure on the automaker. But there didn’t have to be. The fact that there was even communication on the issue was a major ethical breach. The idea that the executive branch would gripe at a private company over a perfectly legitimate ad campaign is antithetical to the American tradition of free speech. This is what we would expect from Vladimir Putin on a slow day, not the team surrounding the President of the United States.
Don’t think that the adminstration was simply peeved that a major corporation would have the temerity to criticize the visionary mandarins of the Obama White House. More than anything, they were terrified that it would work.
Obama’s Gray Davis Moment
Along with lying about the size of the budget deficit and imposing a steep rise in the car tax, California Governor Gray Davis did something else to guarantee his historic recall: impose a pay-to-play “donation” schedule on groups wanting to do state business. Want a permit from the Coastal Commission? How about a government contract to manage welfare cases?
For Davis & Co. there was only one question: How much did you contribute to my campaign?
Former Federal Elections Commissioner Hans von Spakovsky obtained a draft executive order that would implement the substance of the Disclose Act, a bill promising to chill corporate political speech before it was defeated in Congress last year.
According to von Spakovsky, the proposed executive order claims to “increase transparency and accountability,”
Yet this proposed Executive Order would require government contractors to disclose:
(a) All contributions or expenditures to or on behalf of federal candidates, parties or party committees made by the bidding entity, its directors or officers, or any affiliates or subsidiaries within its control.
(b) Any contributions made to third party entities with the intention or reasonable expectation that parties would use those contributions to make independent expenditures or electioneering communications.
In layman’s terms, that means the federal government wants to know which political groups you’ve been giving money to before it will consider awarding a government contract.
In an editorial today, the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) notes that the order exempts federal employee labor unions and the recipients of federal grants, both dues paying members of the Democratic Party.
At the moment, the Right is deploring the president’s last-ditch effort to silence dissenting political views after losses in the courts, Congress, and the FEC. (Especially since Obama’s executive order specifically targets only those entities most likely to disagree with him.)
However, the Left should be leery of this latest version of gangster government. There’s only a hair’s breadth of difference between punishing “bad” political expenditures, and demanding “good” ones. As the deposed Gray Davis showed in California, a government nosy enough to punish its enemies, is a government powerful enough to tax its friends.
Gettysburg Address Now Illegal in D.C.
Looking for an upside to the prospect of a shutdown of the federal government? This gem from the Daily Caller’s Chris Moody ought to do it:
Fast fact: It is illegal to deliver the Gettysburg Address on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial without permission from the U.S. National Park Service.
On President’s Day — standing where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech” — Phillip Howell, 25, recited Lincoln’s famous address and was quickly stopped by a Park Police officer. He told Howell that he could not give speeches on the steps of the memorial without a permit.
“He called me Abe, and then I turned around and he said, ‘Do you have a permit?’ I said ‘no’ and he said, ‘well you can’t do that here then,’” Howell told The Daily Caller. “Then I said, ‘I’m just giving the Gettysburg Address, come on, it’s President’s Day.’ And he said, ‘I don’t care what you’re giving, You’re not allowed to do that here. I don’t care what speech or what agenda you want to give.’”
Take Action: Stop Congress’ Assault on Free Political Speech
House Democrats are planning to force a vote TODAY on H.R. 5175, the so-called DISCLOSE Act. CFIF is asking its activists — and all Americans — to call their Representatives in Congress now to demand they vote “No” on this assault on the First Amendment.
Billed by proponents as a response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, the DISCLOSE Act is nothing more than another attempt by career politicians to silence their critics during elections. Specifically, the legislation seeks to subject small non-profit organizations like CFIF and others to burdensome and expensive disclosure requirements that will make it virtually impossible to speak out on important public policy issues at times when it is most important to do so – in the months leading up to elections.
Alarmingly, the DISCLOSE Act exempts labor unions and other large powerful organizations. In other words, Congress wants to arbitrarily preserve the free speech and association rights of a handful of politically-favored interests, while at the same time muzzle the voices of smaller groups of Americans, including Tea Party groups.
Such a flagrant assault on the First Amendment must be stopped. Remember, a vote on the DISCLOSE Act in the House of Representatives is expected to take place today.
Call your Representative in Congress and urge him or her to vote “No” on H.R. 5175, the DISCLOSE Act. To find your representative’s contact information, click here.
The Best Case Yet Against Elena Kagan …
… comes courtesy of the Heartland Institute’s Ross Kaminsky over at Human Events.
In a piece with the wonderfully direct title “Can Kagan be Trusted to Defend the Constitution?”, Kaminsky takes the would-be justice to town on her record as Solicitor General and as a legal academic.
The whole piece is worth reading (especially for two extended quotes in which Chief Justice Roberts excoriates Kagan’s legal reasoning from the bench). But what may be most provocative is this little nugget:
Kagan’s hostility toward the plain meaning of the 1st Amendment is nothing new. In a 1996 paper (PDF) for the University of Chicago Law Review (she was a professor at the University of Chicago at the same time that Barack Obama was a lecturer there), Kagan suggested that the government’s motives in restricting speech should be important factors in whether those restrictions are upheld by a court. She wonders aloud, in eye-opening Socialist language “what view of the 1st Amendment accounts for the court’s refusal to allow, by means of restrictions, the redistribution of expression?”
You read that right; she said “redistribution of expression.”
She continues: “The question remains, however, why the court should treat as especially suspicious content-neutral regulations of speech—such as the regulations in Buckley—that are justified in terms of achieving diversity.” You can already hear her ruling in a sure-to-come challenge to the re-imposition of the Fairness Doctrine meant to muzzle talk-radio conservatives in the guise of increasing “diversity of opinion”.
Similar to her argument in Stevens which implies a government arbiter of speech, Kagan makes this remarkable statement in her paper: “If there is an ‘overabundance’ of an idea in the absence of direct governmental action—which there well might be when compared with some ideal state of public debate—then action disfavoring that idea might ‘unskew,’ rather than skew, public discourse.”
Be afraid, America. Be very afraid.
Obama Administration Declares Jihad Against Israel, First Amendment
The Obama Administration continues its bizarre behavior in selecting targets for its wrath.
For reasons unknown, the Administration has ostentatiously and histrionically escalated its condemnation of Israel, our most loyal Middle East ally. Why? Merely because Israel announced preliminary approval (the fourth stage of a seven-stage bureaucratic planning process) to build housing units within its own municipal boundaries in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, as The Wall Street Journal reminds us, the Obama Administration continues to treat such anti-American rogues as Libya, Iran, Venezuela and Syria with kid gloves.
Then yesterday, chief White House heavy David Axelrod characterized our First Amendment free speech and petition rights as “a threat to our democracy.” The First Amendment explicitly states that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech … or of the right of the people … to petition the Government for redress of grievances.” Despite those protections, federal laws like McCain/Feingold literally prohibited, under penalty of imprisonment, political speech within 30 and 60 days of an election. Fortunately, the United States Supreme Court struck a blow for First Amendment rights in January by overturning some of those restrictions in Citizens United v. FEC.
The Founding Fathers would not have taken kindly to McCain/Feingold’s unconstitutional restrictions on free speech and the right to petition Congress. To them, abridgment of free speech was a threat to democracy. In contrast, that towering intellectual and philosophical sage David Axelrod considers free speech itself “a threat to our democracy.”
Does Restricting Speech Lead to Better Government? Nope.
Or at least that’s the conclusion one can take away from a recent New York Times article examining campaign finance reform laws across the globe.
The Times reported:
“There is no evidence that stricter campaign finance rules reduce corruption or raise positive assessments of government,” said Kenneth Mayer, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “It seems like such an obvious relationship but it has proven impossible to prove.”
The article also notes that Australia imposes no restrictions on the amount of money corporations and individuals can give, yet Australia is hardly a failed state. In fact, according to the Heritage Foundation, Australians enjoy more economic freedom than Americans.
If the First Amendment doesn’t support opponents of free speech and neither does social science research, where else will they turn? Olbermann?
Democrats Continue to Jump Ship
The parade of horribles continues for the Democratic Party. After losing their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate last week and witnessing an important victory for free speech, Democrats now have to face another retirement.
Marion Berry (no relation to the local politician in Washington, D.C.) announced that he would not seek reelection this year. Berry represents Arkansas’ First District in the northeast part of the state. President Obama garnered just 38 percent of the vote there in 2008, so Berry’s seat looks to be a prime pickup opportunity for the GOP.
In other news, Joe Biden’s son, Beau, announced that he would not be a candidate for his father’s former Senate seat, now held by Edward Kaufman. Kaufman is not considered to be a challenger this November either, leaving another vulnerable Senate seat for the Democrats.
Click here for a full list of departing Members of Congress.
The White House v. Free Speech
If there were any lingering questions about this Administration’s stance on free speech, all doubt was removed last night when the White House issued this response:
“With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”
Right. When did censorship become as popular as organic foods in this country? Mr. President, you also failed to mention that this decision will be a huge boon for unions, major contributors to your campaign and the Democratic Party. Citizens United is a victory for both the left and the right, a victory for anyone who is opposed to jailing someone over broadcasting a political position.
This Administration claims to be “liberal,” yet it also took the position that banning books that contained one line of advocacy was a felony. What would have happened if McCain-Feingold were around in the 18th Century when the Federalist Papers were being printed with small business paper? Locking people up for political speech is as American as burning books or jailing political enemies. Why stop now, Mr. President?
The end of the world is still far off in the distance. As former Federal Election Commission Chairman Bradley A. Smith mentioned today, 28 states already allow corporate and “special interest” spending. States like Oregon, Virginia and Utah are hardly known as bastions for corrupt political activity, even though they allow corporations to take a stance when issues are debated in the public circle.
Harsh critics of Free Speech claim that because corporations don’t vote that they shouldn’t be afforded basic First Amendment protections. So, if the First Amendment doesn’t apply to corporations, perhaps they shouldn’t pay taxes?
The Supreme Court has already held that the Constitution, in most parts, applies to corporate entities. Is the First Amendment inapplicable when the actor grows richer? What about the Takings Clause in the Fifth Amendment? Should corporations and other for-profit entities be denied due process of the law simply because they don’t vote? I’m sure politicians would approve of that but thankfully they haven’t overturned the Fifth Amendment … yet.
Lacking voting rights is an argument for this decision, not against it. Corporations and non-profits lack the right to vote and can’t even contribute directly to political parties unless they choose to form expensive political action committees (PAC). Independent expenditures are one of the few ways businesses can influence legislation that has a direct impact on their existence.
Let’s also remember that 99% of corporations in the U.S. aren’t rich or powerful. The language in McCain-Feingold was woefully overbroad and applied to every entity from General Electric to your local florist.
Americans should be rejoicing because the Administration and most politicians hate this decision. That’s wonderful. Anything that upsets career politicians is normally good for the rest of the country. Then again, Congress should be happy; their enemies are no longer hidden behind the veil of those evil 527 groups.
With the blackballing of Fox News, his appointment of Justice Sotomayor, who voted against free speech, and his response to Citizens United, President Obama has made clear what many suspected years ago. The President is not a fan of free speech, that is unless he’s breaking campaign promises and drowning out his opponent with over $700 million in union-funded spending. As much as his speech might have been repulsive to some, President Obama had every right to spend money spreading his views.
Maybe it’s not free speech to which the President is opposed; maybe it’s just a little healthy competition.
Predicting the Future of Free Speech
Of the 286 predictions, 67 percent believe that the Supreme Court will overrule the D.C. Circuit Court and find that “Hillary: The Movie” is not covered by current campaign finance regulations. The final verdict: free speech wins.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that these are just predictions and the longer the Court sits on the opinion, the more free speech suffers.