Editor’s Note: The following article was originally published by The Heritage Foundation. To see the original article, click here.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has promised the Senate will take up a proposed constitutional amendment this year that would radically alter the First Amendment.
The would allow Congress to limit fundraising and spending on election campaigns and independent political speech. Reid and others insist restricting the amount of money that may be raised and spent on political speech is the same as limiting speech. That’s like saying that limiting the amount of newsprint a newspaper can buy does not limit its speech.
Having lost the battle at the Supreme Court, Reid and his cohorts are now pushing this constitutional amendment to reverse decisionsincluding and that protect the rights of Americans to speak their minds about elected officials and candidates and to engage in the political process.
Shutting down conservative speech certainly appears to be a motivating factor behind this push to amend the First Amendment. Reid has given many interviews and speeches on the Senate floor demonizing the Charles and David Koch for “” into politics, “” and “.” Of course, he never mentions efforts by big Democratic contributors, such as George Soros and the SEIU. Imagine the audacity of those “un-American” and “shrewd businessmen” () who would back candidates and causes they believe will make America better.
Champions of the proposed constitutional amendment claim it will “level the playing field” in elections. But that’s wrong for two reasons.
The New York Times and MSNBC may continue to spend as much money, newsprint and airtime as they want to support their preferred candidates (or attack those they oppose), but the Kochs and other Americans would be severely restricted in their political activity and speech.
even if a challenger “run[s] a flawless race,” the incumbent has “a dramatic advantage in issue knowledge, local media contacts and relationships.”
Allowing Congress to regulate the raising and spending of money in campaigns will tie the hands of candidates seeking to unseat them, which is already a long shot. Incumbents are able to amass war chests over the years. As Rick Manning of Americans for Limited Government has
Tomorrow, the Senate Judiciary Committee will on this proposed constitutional amendment. It’s not easy to amend the Constitution (of more than 11,500 proposed amendments, only 27 have been ratified by the states), so S.J. Res. 19 is likely to end up as a talking point used to rile up the anti- base in advance of the 2014 election.
Heritage held an event that featured a panel of campaign finance experts. Bobby Burchfield, who argued , Don McGahn, the former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, and Heritage scholar Hans von Spakovsky discussed this attempt to silence free speech by amending the Constitution. See the recorded event by clicking here.