Constitutional Law

Americans Say: Curb Election Spending, But Absolutely No Curbs on Speech

The latest Reason-Rupe poll finds the public supports efforts to curb corruption in political elections but opposes methods that may infringe on free speech in the process.

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On Monday, Senate Democrats voted to advance a constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to regulate money raised and spent by candidates. It would also effectively overturn the Citizens United ruling and allow Congress the ability to restrict individuals, groups, corporations, and unions from using their resources in ways that Congress believes will influence elections:

"Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections."

Background is useful here: The Citizens United case determined whether it was constitutional for the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law to prohibit—with threats of fine and imprisonment—a small non-profit group from airing a critical documentary about Hillary Clinton within 30 days before a Democratic presidential primary. Ultimately, the court ruled such bans on independent expenditures by corporations, labor unions, nonprofits, and associations violated the First Amendment.

In oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Obama administration lawyer arguing the case conceded that in order to regulate money and electioneering, this necessarily gave Congress the power to also ban Internet videos, political pamphlets and books if businesses, unions, or non-profit interest groups paid for them.

The logic behind this argument is clearly troubling since the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution explicitly protects against this very thing: "Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press."

One might reasonably ask why the act of regulating independent spending during elections could infringe on free speech. Sen. Ted Cruz (TX-R) provides some explanation as for why:

"Speech is more than just standing on a soap box yelling on a street corner. For centuries the Supreme Court has rightly concluded that free speech includes writing and distributing pamphlets, putting up billboards, displaying yard signs, launching a website, and running radio and television ads. Every one of those activities requires money. Distributing the Federalist Papers or Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" required money. If you can prohibit spending money, you can prohibit virtually any form of effective speech." [emphasis added]

To combat concerns that the proposed measure could infringe upon speech, its sponsors added Section 3 stating that the amendment should not be allowed to "abridge the freedom of the press."

Notice that speech is not mentioned. This suggests that only those who Congress confers the status of "press" receive protection. It's worth remembering that recently Congress has defined the press as only those meeting very specific criteria. For instance, Sen. Chuck Schumer's media-shield law explicitly did not cover bloggers or anyone not considered a "covered journalist." He even admitted a "covered journalist" might not even include journalist Glenn Greenwald who reported Edward Snowden's revelations about the NSA's domestic surveillance programs.

Cruz has provided a list of potential activities the proposed constitutional amendment could potentially allow Congress to ban:

  • Congress could prohibit the National Rifle Association from distributing voter guides letting citizens know politicians' records on the Second Amendment.
  • Congress could prohibit the Sierra Club from running political ads criticizing politicians for their environmental policies.
  • Congress could penalize pro-life (or pro-choice) groups for spending money to urge their views of abortion.
  • Congress could prohibit labor unions from organizing workers (an in-kind expenditure) to go door to door urging voters to turn out.
  • Congress could criminalize pastors making efforts to get their parishioners to vote.
  • Congress could punish bloggers expending any resources to criticize the president.
  • Congress could ban books, movies (watch out, Michael Moore) and radio programs—anything not deemed "the press"—that might influence upcoming elections.

While today no one is arguing to ban the aforementioned activities, it still remains unclear how the amendment would ensure the law couldn't be used to prohibit them.

Section 2 of the proposed amendment does say that Congress "may" distinguish between regular people and corporations, but it certainly doesn't guarantee to individuals, nonprofits, and other groups that their First Amendment rights won't be infringed.

Therefore, the burden of proof stands squarely on the shoulders of Congressional Democrats to explain why giving Congress this expanded authority could not lead to banning political books and pamphlets as the Obama administration's own lawyer once said campaign finance laws could.

In a Politico op-ed, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Ted Deutch argue Cruz is wrong and promise their proposed constitutional amendment "will not infringe on citizens' First Amendment rights." But they don't provide any evidence or explanation for why it won't. Instead, they argue that efforts to curb the power of rich people spending in elections will offset costs to the average individual created by their proposed amendment. Their op-ed gives the impression to readers that perhaps the only check on Congressional authority would be a promise of goodwill, and voters are asked to trust their political leaders to know what's best.

So ultimately the debate rests on this fundamental question: Can Congress actually regulate money in politics without necessarily infringing on speech, or does speech often require money be spent in order to actually disseminate the communication to a mass audience? The public's support for such an amendment ultimately hinges on the answer to this question.

The latest Reason-Rupe poll sheds some light on this question, finding that 57 percent of Americans would support a constitutional amendment that "allows Congress and state governments to regulate campaign contributions to and spending by candidates for office," while 36 percent would oppose. This is actually a bipartisan affair—59 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of Independents, and 54 percent of Republicans would all support such an amendment—including 57 percent of tea party supporters.

However, fully 75 percent of all Americans would oppose such an amendment if it "also allowed Congress and states to regulate activities by individuals and groups, such as blogging or publishing a book that support or oppose a political candidate." Only 15 percent would continue to favor such legislation.

In sum, the public supports efforts to reduce the effect of money in elections, but will not tolerate costs to speech if those are required.

Schumer and Deutsch ask the public to conduct a "balancing test" when considering the costs and benefits of the First Amendment. But they fail to explain how their amendment's benefits will offset the costs to free speech.

It is clearly troubling to think that "nefarious" roving billionaires are buying elections and crowding out the voices of average Americans. But if it were so easy, then why didn't Republican billionaires succeed in 2012 after committing hundreds of millions to defeat Democrats? Why despite billionaire Tom Steyer's commitment of $100 million to elect members to combat climate change, has there not been significant legislation to that end? Why despite Meg Whitman's $1.4 billion net worth and spending $140 million of her own money in 2010 did she handily lose California's gubernatorial election?

The answer seems to be that money cannot buy people's hearts and minds; the American people are not sheep. Voters may favor efforts to reduce the effect of money in elections, but when it comes down to it, Americans value their speech over iterative attempts to control the flow of money.

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120 responses to “Americans Say: Curb Election Spending, But Absolutely No Curbs on Speech

  1. Yep. Among allllllll the potential, pressing issues of the day, the one that the US Congress should address is suppressing speech.

    Good call, Dingy Harry!

    Fucktarded fucktards….

    1. “Yep. Among allllllll the potential, pressing issues of the day, the one that the US Congress should address is suppressing speech.

      Good call, Dingy Harry!”

      Hey, Harry’s making a good point. He can’t make much progress on the rest of his agenda, if people are free to broadly communicate their opinion of the matter. By curtailing free speech, Harry has a much easier job of it.

    2. At least they’re going the “amendment” route, like they had a vague memory that the Constitution still exists?

      OK, it’s a pretty crappy silver lining, I admit…

    3. Yep. Among allllllll the potential, pressing issues of the day, the one that the US Congress should address is suppressing speech.

      Nope. The issue of the day they decided to address is the looming slaughter of Democrats in the upcoming elections.

      This stunt is nothing more than a shit show to rally the troops.

    4. “Among allllllll the potential, pressing issues of the day”

      For a typical elected official, getting on the phone and trying to raise money for campaigns is a daily activity, a very pressing and annoying one as well. It’s not hard to imagine why both voters and politicians agree on the curbing of election spending.

      1. That, and incumbents have a natural advantage. They already won the last popularity contest with voters. Serving in office, they get free publicity and the ability to spend government coffers, buying a coalition without using election funds at all. Want some TV time? Call for a press conference, and spend the entire time bragging about yourself. No need to buy a commercial.

        The last thing an incumbent wants is some challenger, showing up from out of nowhere, with enough money to publicly challenge them.

        So, I’m not surprised a lot of incumbent politicians really like the idea of “leveling the playing field.” Because, unless you level away their incumbent advantage, any playing field leveling results in one more tilted in their favor.

        1. I’m not surprised a lot of incumbent politicians really like the idea of “leveling the playing field.”

          Are the numbers of non-incumbent politicians significantly in disagreement with the voters and incumbent politicians?

          I’m not sure how access to money is supposed to ‘level the field’ in favour of the challengers. Whatever funds these challengers have access to, the incumbents presumably have access to as well, and they have all the government apparatus at hand to help them get it.

          1. mtrueman:

            I’m not sure how access to money is supposed to ‘level the field’ in favour of the challengers.

            Because an incumbent has an advantage of being in the news, serving office, for years beforehand, getting free publicity. A challenger has whatever his campaign and supporters can pull off before an election. Usually, you have to buy that, since the press provides much more free coverage to people who are, say, senators, then all the people who may, one day, decide to run for the senate.

            Whatever funds these challengers have access to, the incumbents presumably have access to as well, and they have all the government apparatus at hand to help them get it.

            Hence, they have an advantage, since they have all the government apparatus.

            Placing some artificial limit on campaign spending limit (i.e., “No one can spend more than $X on their campaigns) would make them, more or less, equivalent, except for that huge government apparatus thing, which isn’t exactly nullified by the campaign donation limit, that you’ve pointed out, answering your own question.

            1. I don’t dispute that incumbents have what you might call a natural advantage over challengers. I don’t understand how unlimited campaign contributions would favour the challenger or even the playing field, though, if that’s your point. Whatever the challenger chooses to do with his or her money, the incumbent can do the same with the same amount of money.

              You want to address the advantage of the incumbent? Go to the root of the problem and give each challenger X number of votes for every day the incumbent has held office, rather like the handicap system used in some sports. It’s votes, after all, that are counted in elections, and there are many examples of well funded challengers that have failed to unseat an incumbent.

              1. I don’t want to address the advantage of the incumbent. Rather, I want to prevent incumbent politicians from giving themselves an even greater advantage, by limiting campaign donations. As you’ve pointed out, even though, roughly speaking, any candidate can go after the same pots of money as any other candidate, challengers often gain a funding advantage. This is because politicians do actually have to take positions on issues, and the number of voters, political support, and, thus, financial support, can vary widely.

                Attempts to make every candidate and every support group spend the exact same amount of money takes that dimension away from any challengers trying to overcome an incumbent. So, of course, all other things being equal, an incumbent would love that, because of what you just said: whatever a challenger does with their money, an incumbent can do the same thing, but a challenger can’t buy himself into an alternate dimension where he held office for the last several years. The incumbent doesn’t worry about that: he already bought it.

  2. Journalism is an activity, not a profession. This idea that the government can carve out special privileges for media corporations but not private citizens who make a video or write a blogpost is so idiotic that it could only come from a progressive.

    In whining that corporations aren’t people who have the right to free speech, they want to revoke free speech for everyone but corporations.

    1. That’s among the worst things about this idea, I think. Not only is journalism and activity that anyone can participate in, “the press” is a means of communication, not a profession or a particular type of communication. Interpreting “press” to mean professional journalists is one of the worst things that has been done to the first amendment.

    2. Unfortunately, we’ve had a couple of generations (mine included) who were educated in public schools that taught them that Freedom of the Press was a protection for journalists.

      I would bet that a survey would show over 95% of population under age of 60 believes Freedom of Press just protects journalists.

      The ignorant are winning.

      1. Not just journalists, but licensed journalists.

        1. Credentialed journalists. We’ve been taught that journalists work for media organizations and carry credentials, which garner them special privileges and access.

          1. Yeah, we aren’t quite to actual licensing yet.

      2. That might be slightly redundant. If they haven’t licensed you as a journalist, you are not a journalist.

        1. If you aren’t a licensed person, you are not a person.

          All things flow from the state.

    3. “In whining that corporations aren’t people who have the right to free speech, they want to revoke free speech for everyone but corporations.”

      Free speech for them means approved speech by approved parties. That is what they won’t say out loud. Having official journalists means having people who have been given government permission to speak.

  3. The below is said in the belief that the chances of this passing and becoming the 28th amendment to the Constitution are about the same of my chances of having a threesome with my wife and Jennifer Lawrence tonight.

    I understand why Congress, accused of abusing their own power to potentially aid donors, would propose something like this.

    I do not understand why the populace thinks that giving more power to Congress (which this does) will solve the problem. The problem is Congress having too much power. The solution is… giving them more power? Wonder what’ll happen a few years down the road when the same things are going on…

    1. See, most people are fucking stupid, which is the root of all evil.

      Start from that premise, and it all makes a lot more sense.

    2. The progressive solution to the government having too much power is always to give the government more power, always.

    3. The problem is Congress having too much power.

      The problem is government having too much power.

      FTFY … YW

      1. The problem is the government having too much money.

        To get the money out of politics, we must take the money away from the politicians.

  4. Since freedom means asking permission and obeying orders, restricting the speech of those who do not have permission and are not obeying orders is not a violation of the 1A.

    That would be consistent with peaceful assembly which requires a permit, and bearing arms which requires a permit.

  5. The truly frightening thing to me about this is that the Democrats simply wouldn’t be advancing it if they didn’t think it was to their political advantage.

    Polls about Americans’ thoughts are nice but the reality is that elections are about motivated minorities more than the national character, and that on the left the idea of re-writing the First Amendment to restrict freedom of speech, specifically, the very type of speech that the First was written primarily to protect is viewed as a political winner represents a very dangerous turn.

    1. But you’re a Godwinning wacko bird if you compare this road to “you know who”, cause “This could never happen HERE??!”

      Yeah, it is happening. A little mor slowly, and taking longer. But it’s absolutely happening.

      I just got into reloading this weekened, for a reason.

      1. Thing is, we were basically one more “liberal” judge away from this being the way the 1st is read as it is worded now. The next person to tell me Republicans are just as bad as Democrats is getting a health helping of me laughing in their face. Republicans suck, but not like this.

        1. Republicans and Democrats are bad in different ways. I have no need to pick a winner.

          1. True. The ‘Lawrence v. Texas’ case proved conservatives are just as bad as progressives are.

            1. Because supporting a little-enforced (agreed, idiotic and unconstitutional) law that had been on the books for years is the same thing as restricting political speech to a defined class.

              1. Where justice is concerned how often a statute is enforced should be of no matter.

                1. While a pleasant sounding platitude, in practice, your statement is just batshit crazy.

          2. “I have no need to pick a winner.”

            You may not, but one will be picked for you.

      2. “I just got into reloading this weekened, for a reason.”

        Excellent. What did you get? If you want higher quality ammo get yourself a single stage Forster press.

        I am spending the day at my bench. I have been reloading/casting/shooting since I was ten years old. It is one of my favorite pastimes.

    2. This is one of those words vs. reality disconnects. Campaign reform is usually sold as getting “big money” out of politics. Most people seem to support that. But most people don’t realize that in reality, any campaign finance laws will favor incumbents. There is no way in hell congress is going to pass a law that makes it harder for themselves to be re-elected.

      1. That seems like a good way of arguing this with almost anyone. “If the people in Congress thought this would harm them, do you think there’s a chance in hell they’d be pushing it?”

      2. This exactly. What the hell is this new law supposed to accomplish? “If only we got the big money out of politics”…then what, exactly? I guess people love to think all those other politicians – you know, the bad ones – will be thrown out, but the ones they like will stay.

        1. It’s more false consciousness idiocy. Too many people really believe that the only reason anyone would disagree with them is because they have some bad information or have been tricked by someone with impure motives.

      3. Exactly. Any restrictions on campaign financing will favor the candidates who are supported by the major parties. TO imagine that anything else would ever pass is nuts.

  6. Trusting congress to regulate campaign spending is like trusting a fox to regulate the hen house, or Warty to regulate rape dungeons.

    1. Well, truth be told, I could get behind Warty being in charge of rape dugeons, cause he does know more about them than anythng elseon hell or Erf.

    2. I thought Warty was already in charge of regulating rape dungeons. Is there anyone who’s more of an expert on the subject?

    3. Not being a government entity, Warty has no power to regulate. He does, however, publish detailed standards and specifications, and those cool “Warty Compliant Rape Dungeon” stickers. Or so I’ve heard.

  7. It’s all part of the Democrats’ master immigration policy–make the U.S. unattractive to potential immigrants, legal or illegal. Less wealth, less opportunity, more oppression, less liberty. Win-win-win!!

    1. Exactly! I don’t think North Korea has a problem with illegal/legal immigrants whatsoever.

  8. This falls under “I didn’t really want to know that.”

  9. I would like to thank Emily for undertaking a poll topic that did not involve millennials.

  10. Perhaps I am insufficiently cynical, but I always find it amazing how many people are all for neutering the first amendment. I can understand the motivation for regulation of commercial speech (though I disagree). But to limit political speech is just completely contrary to the whole point. And yet so many people on the left still imagine that they are the pro-freedom people.

    1. You will still be perfectly free to agree with the left. Because any disagreement is not protected, because it’s obviously hate speech.

    2. And yet so many people on the left still imagine that they are the pro-freedom people.

      Well, yeah. People on the left support the freedom to agree with them. Anything else is intolerant and extremist. Intolerant and extremist speech is dangerous, and must be extinguished. That way we can all be free to agree with the left.

  11. Its a bit ironic, Emily, that you tell us what all this means to the American people, and yet miss the entire point.

    What is clear is that Americans don’t equate money with speech, as pontificated by the Supreme Court. They are unhappy with that equation, even Tea Partiers. And they clearly want limits on what money can buy in an election. You’re right, the American people are not sheep, and they aren’t “buying” the Libertarian view that unlimited money in elections is OK.

    1. Actually, the libertarian view is that government should be limited, especially when it comes to the economy. If politicians didn’t have the power to choose winners and losers in the market, then there wouldn’t be an incentive to buy them off. Talk about missing the point.

      1. Money follows power as it were.

      2. Indeed, you did….miss the point, that is.

    2. I would be amenable to a total spending limit if you were to remove the rest of the FEC regulations as well as the FEC. While I oppose spending limits in general, I still think that the compromise would be worth it in that case.

    3. What is clear is that Americans don’t equate money with speech

      No, that’s actually not clear, since Americans overwhelmingly don’t support the idea of banning the publishing of political books, an act which requires spending money.

      1. While I agree with you, I wonder if they’d keep up with that thought if it came down to it, or if they’d see it as a necessary evil in order to keep that evil money out of politics.

        The Citizens United decision, from which all of this comes, was about a corporation making a movie about a candidate. The majority of people disagreed with the decision. Remember that.

        1. In my experience, the vast majority of people who disagree with the decision actually don’t know any thing about it. All they can tell you is that SCOTUS declared corporations to be people.

          1. To be fair, they also know all about the Kochtopus.

      2. THIS IS WHAT CITIZENS UNITED WAS ACTUALLY ABOUT

    4. “Americans don’t equate money with speech” is both true and meaningless. Most Americans don’t think clearly; news at 11!

      I’d like to see the polls broken down more carefully:

      Which Americans think that only donations should be limited, but don’t realize that this would disproportionately hurt the less wealthy, since the rich can afford to buy campaign ads without pooling their money?

      Which Americans think that direct expenditures on ads should be limited, but don’t realize that this would disproportionately hurt the less wealthy, since the ultra-rich can afford to buy their own news media?

      Which Americans think that campaign and issue coverage by the media should be limited, but don’t realize that asking the government to vote on what campaign coverage is permissible would entrench bias, not eliminate it?

      The fact that most Americans have trouble with a simple equation isn’t news, but knowing exactly which step you’re having trouble with might be informative. At the very least if we know how far you’re willing to go we can decide whether future “campaign finance reform” should be entitled “The Anti-Sierra-Club Act”, “The Fair And Balanced Coverage Act”, or “The Incumbent Protection Act”.

      1. If most Americans don’t think clearly (and I think you are wrong), then it would be incumbent upon you to inform Reason of that fact…polls are trotted out all the time, particularly when they support a stance that Reason has taken.

    5. Unfortunately, Jackass is at least partly right. Americans are so stupid and brainwashed by the media (who would love to have a monopoly on political speech) that many of them don’t realize that they are simply begging to be muzzled like dogs.

      If Jackass wants a limit on money, why not limit it to $1 per candidate per election cycle?

    6. I agree with those people. Money is not speech. Money is money. Money can be spent on speech or press, and that must not be restricted.

    7. So Americans would be perfectly OK with a law that would make Phyllis Schafley a felon for spending money to publish “A Choice Not an Echo” back in 1964?

      1. No, they wouldn’t…which is indicated in the poll above. What they would be for is limitations to dollar donations to candidates.

  12. How about if we cut the First Amendment down to “Congress shall make no law”?

    1. Now this is genius.

  13. The only way I can think of to adequately express my disgust for senate democrats is rather old fashioned.

    In the days of chamber pots, one could commission a pot with a certain persons face painted on the inside. One of my pots would have the scowling face of Harry Reid looking dourly up from the bottom. I would use that visage as it deserves. Daily.

    I wonder if there are any chamber pot makers still in existence.

  14. “Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.”

    So… If New York Times’ revenue exceeds Congressional limit, they will be prohibited from publishing an editorial endorsing Obama’s presidency?

    1. The sponsors have thought of that, but of course they don’t understand the implications of their actions:

      To combat concerns that the proposed measure could infringe upon speech, its sponsors added Section 3 stating that the amendment should not be allowed to “abridge the freedom of the press.”

      Yes, that’s right. They want to enshrine the following in the Constitution:

      a). The ability for the government to determine whether or not someone is a member of the press (i.e. they deserve free speech)

      and

      b). Special free speech rights for corporations (only politically favored corporations, of course).

      1. This reminds me of Internet Registration Law in Russia. Not good.

    2. Or Fox News will be prohibited from editorializing against it. Depends on who’s both lucky enough to be in power and crooked enough to first abuse it when the opportunity arises.

  15. Hanging around a bunch of millennials, I’ve found them to be remarkably boring. The things they like are boring, the things they do are boring, the stuff they talk about is boring…

    BOOOOOOOOORRRrrrrrrring!

    About the only thing I find more boring than millennials–is talking about millennials. You could throw a dart at your local newspaper, talk about wherever it hit on page ten, and you’d find something more interesting to talk about than millennials.

    1. I find the use of the word “millennials” very boring all by itself.

  16. Open up all campaign spending. If unlimited donations can be funneled into PACs then why are there individual limits on donations?

    Bill Maher donated $1 million to an Obama PAC but could not donate more than $2300 directly to his campaign. This makes no sense.

    Full disclosure should be required though.

    1. PB may have actually stumbled on a good point. Squirrel, acorn.

      1. It’s just picking random words from a list. A room full of monkeys on typewriters will eventually churn out Shakespeare.

      2. I’d bet even money that he meant it sarcastically.

        1. Bullshit. The reason I am hated here is that I am in fact a classic liberal and I have escaped the GOP plantation.

          Half the posters here are conservative and don’t give a fuck about classic liberalism.

  17. It’s been said before, but it is worth repeating: the best way to get money out of politics is to get politicians out of people’s lives. People can’t buy what the government can’t sell.

    1. What I really want is a government sufficiently limited in scope that I don’t have to care who gets elected.

  18. In other news, the ACLU today ex-communicated Harry Reid and all Democratic Senators…

  19. Be sure to tell the next prog who is thrusting a pamphlet into your hand that he or she won’t be able to do it much longer if the Senate
    Democrats get their way. Libertarians have to stir up outrage on the Left about this assault on free speech.

  20. I clicked on that Politico article. Then I read the comments, which were so stupid I think I got cancer from them. Thank you Obamacare!

  21. Republicans suck, but not like this.

    While I agree, I think that’s one you have to be careful about. Too often the party zombies will try to bait and switch that to being okay with their suckiness.

    That said, yeah, you have to dig deep to find this level of party authoritarianism among the Repubs.

  22. Man, are people really this stupid? Who gives a shit how much money is spent on any kind of speech. Saying it louder and more often doesn’t necessarily make it true. If people don’t understand that, then I’m afraid we are fucked.

    I’m going to raise a trillion dollars to get the word out that 4 + 4 = hot dog.

    1. I think this is the new math kids are doing in common core…. can’t beat the govt. at stupid.

    2. From what I can tell, it’s not that people are afraid of people saying things louder and more often. They’re afraid that some rich person or small group of rich people will fund someone’s entire campaign, making that politician beholden to their donors rather than the much larger number of voters that elected them.

      And that is a valid concern, one that I share. But this amendment is an appalling non-solution, worthy of lots of tarring and feathering. It also absolutely fails to recognize that the status quo pre-Citizens United did absolutely nothing to curb the influence of monied or otherwise politicaly powerful special interests.

      So long as government has power, those with the means to do so will find ways to co-opt that power.

      1. Don’t vote for politicians who are in the bag for some interest.

        In fact, until we effectively neuter the power of politicians to enact any edict they like, voting is an act of self mutilation. Stay home.

      2. *They’re afraid that some rich person or small group of rich people will fund someone’s entire campaign, making that politician beholden to their donors rather than the much larger number of voters that elected them.*

        So what? Just DON’T VOTE FOR THAT PERSON.

    3. “Man, are people really this stupid? ”

      I’m guessing you haven’t heard of the Koch Sisters? The latest ad campaign brought to you by the AFL-CIO.

      http://www.politico.com/story/…..10581.html

  23. From the Politico article Emily linked to:

    Indeed, Americans’ free speech rights flourished throughout the 20th century alongside numerous laws aimed at shielding government from the influence of well-funded special interests.

    Shielded? Most of what we call the contemporary American state is a result of well-funded special interests that go back decades.

    The only mechanism for negating the act of buying government is integrity and ethical resolve boiling in the bosoms of elected representatives- the continuous vacuum of which cannot be replaced with legislation limiting speech in any way whatsoever.

    So, yea, we’re fucked.

    1. You won’t regularly get integrity and ethical resolve in politicians. It has to come from voters who value liberty and will throw out the politicians when they don’t. That may be just as pie-in-the-sky, sadly.

      1. So, yea, we’re fucked.

    2. TotH, with golf clap.

  24. I have a better solution that doesn’t impact anyone’s rights:

    All elected officials are limited to one term in office, not to exceed 8 years, with intervening votes of confidence at least every two years. 2/3 of participating voters voting no confidence is required to remove said official from office early.

    1. I like it, but how about tossing them if they don’t get a “keep” vote from more than 50% of all registered voters? Make a non-vote equivalent to a no vote.

      Has the upside of also penalizing shady voter registration practices.

      1. Because, they won their election and should be provided the opportunity to put forward their proposals for the constituency that elected them. A 2/3 no vote shows that even a good portion of their constituency believes he’s gone rogue.

        I could, however be talked into a number other than 2/3.

    2. That still features campaigns. Just randomly select Representatives (so that they are a representative selection of the people) and repeal the 17th amendment. The only campaigns left will be state & local, and Presidential.

  25. Section 2 of the proposed amendment does say that Congress “may” distinguish between regular people and corporations

    Of course Congress would distinguish: NYT and other big media corporations can say and do whatever they want, but if you blog about the president or Congress, your assets will be seized and you’ll be thrown in jail: to protect free speech!

  26. Congress cannot regulate itself. Why on Earth would we want more federal regulation from any branch?

  27. The first amendment refers to “freedom of the press” alright, but “the press” did not mean “journalists” until 1921. “The press”, in the late 18th century when the bill of rights was adopted, referred to publishing generally. One might read the prhase as “freedom to print”, an obvious complement to “freedom to speak”, as both convey the concept of communication of ideas in different ways. Anyone trying to limit the first amendment to only journalists is making a power grab.

    Source: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=press

  28. Bottom line: there is a majority of stupid voters in this country who think that more government and making compromises on our freedoms (rights as an example) will make the world a better place. Ya can’t fix stupid.

    My rights are not subject to collective compromise, they are subject to imposition of power to repress them because most people are idiots.

  29. How about no corporate funds can be spent by publicly traded corporations on elections? I know this would not stop “fat cat associations”, and I don’t know if this would actually work or be effective, but putting out there for comments.

    1. Why should the government have the power to tell anyone how to spend “THEIR” money?

  30. Elections are important. We probably don’t spend enough of education the public about the issues. Perhaps what we should to is prohibit the 1 min or 30 sec sound bites and demand real outlines of the differences in political stances. Stop the banners, start the education.

    1. Why should the government have the power to tell anyone how to spend “THEIR” money

  31. I wonder why Tony hasn’t shown up to explain to us about the corrosive effect of money in politics, and how once this passes there will be a level playing field, because impartial news organs such as the NYT will explain the facts about the issues, while registered and regulated political committees will debate those issues, using limited funds.

  32. While today no one is arguing to ban the aforementioned activities

    Citation needed. For ensuring that “special interest” groups cannot send people information does ensure that the people remain ignorant. In fact, the best thing for an oppressive government is ignorance. If the people don’t know what causes all the bad things that happens to them (the vast majority from government), then they won’t know who to blame or how to stop it.

    We all know how much oppressive governments love useful idiots…

  33. So corporate money in campaigns is apparently a big problem to Reid (and the people who voted this out of judiciary committee), but media corporation money is just fine? It seems to me the only way this could work as proposed is to change the 1st Amendment at the same time.

    Still, money influences in Congress could continue to be an issue with this model, even if “freedom of the press” was somehow removed, which of course would cause all kinds of other problems with free speech, since “the press” isn’t synonymous with “the media.”

    If campaign money is really a problem, why not simply do the elegant thing and propose an amendment to repeal the 17th Amendment, and add to it term limits for politicians in Congress?

    This would mean that campaign money would need to buy an entire state legislature to get one single Senator in Congress, and that money would only buy a Senator for a limited amount of time.

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