09.09.2014 1

Fascism in the First Amendment?


By Tom Toth

Mere hours after returning from summer recess, Harry Reid is prejudicially targeting his party’s proverbial White Whale: The First Amendment.

While the words to the Pledge of Allegiance still rang fresh from the Senate chamber after opening the session yesterday, Harry Reid took the podium to announce his party’s intentions to establish a plan to corrupt the First Amendment with a contradictory constitutional amendment.

Reid continued by announcing on behalf of Senate Democrats — albeit nearly incoherently at times — that how you spend your money on politics isn’t, in fact, protected activity under the First Amendment.

This fascist notion oils an onerous slippery slope. Imagine a United States where the government can tell you how you can and cannot spend your money, and in what proportion. It’s not too farfetched considering the ramifications of the proposed amendment. Democrats cannot have it both ways; if allocating your personal financial resources to political campaigns isn’t political speech, spending money in the marketplace isn’t protected free speech either. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that spending money, especially in the political realm, is a protected form of speech under the First Amendment — Democrats are seeking to kill the heart of the first established, and perhaps most precious, in the Bill of Rights.

What happens if they prevail?

For one thing, the advantage of incumbent political candidates expands greatly. Consider, for instance, an incumbent supported reliably by a large political establishment and previously-grown network of donors, facing an opponent with little to no name recognition and no resources outside a few supporters willing to invest in the opponent candidate’s vision. Unless the opponent somehow manages to build a comparable network and support base as the incumbent, the opponent unquestionably faces a larger barrier to competitiveness in the campaign. For this fictional, yet not farfetched, voting district, the political result of Reid’s amendment is less political choice and freedom.

In the United States, ballots cannot be cast with dollar bills. Eligible citizens vote, and they do so most effectively when they have access to the most, highest quality information available. Yet the illogical and oft-repeated foundation for the Democrats’ push to destroy the foundational absoluteness of the First Amendment is that organizations and the wealthy are “purchasing votes” under the present law. In fact, the opposite is true. Campaign contributions are “hard money” used for campaign activities like promotion and education, as strictly regulated by the Federal Election Commission.

In contrast, “purchasing votes” is paying or otherwise incentivizing those capable of casting a ballot to vote as an effective proxy of the benefactor. Ironically, Harry Reid has done or said nothing in opposition of that specific circumstance of corruption since mainstream media outlets were given broad exceptions to the proposed speech restrictions under the same amendment. Is there any wonder how those got into the proposed amendment?

What, then, is Democrats’ purpose for limiting how you spend your money in the political realm? In all practicality, this amendment has a snowball’s chance in Palm Springs of actually passing in the Senate. But it exemplifies perfectly the resolve these Senators possess to stifle freedom in favor of preserving a political establishment.

If the people’s Senators and Representatives are ultimately unlikely to be anyone other than established incumbents with little risk of challenge, it will be that much easier to centralize power and silence the voice of opposition.

The Bill of Rights has never been amended, but don’t disregard the tyranny in campaign finance clothing that will fail today. A proposal like this is never more than one election cycle away from being adopted.

Tom Toth is the Digital Content Director for Americans for Limited Government.

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