In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court made a disastrous decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission to allow corporations to pour vast amounts of money into the political system, and it’s breaking the foundation of American democracy.
We know the Constitution says “We the People,” but lately it seems like it’s “We the billionaires and corporations.”
The “foundation of American democracy” is that America is not a democracy. It is a republic based on the primacy of inalienable individual rights to life, liberty, earned property, and the pursuit of happiness, flourishing, and safety. Democracy has a severely limited role in that the vote cannot be used to vote away those rights, either one’s own or others’. Among these inalienable rights are freedom of speech and assembly. Yet, Muller and Kimmel want us to vote away those rights:
Remember, your vote is your voice, and you must use your vote at the polls this November to protect your voice.
One bill in Congress that would help move our democracy back on track is the DISCLOSE Act. It would shine a light on “dark money” donations and require campaign ads to provide more information about who paid for the ad. A critical fix to the disastrous Citizens United decision is to amend the Constitution to regulate contributions and expenditures, so all citizens — regardless of their net worth — may have an equal voice in the political process. The Democracy for All Amendment Resolution proposes such an amendment and has been co-sponsored by New Jersey Reps. Norcross, Albio Sires, D-8th Dist., and Bill Pascrell, 9th-Dist.
Notice they speak of “an equal voice,” not equal rights.This means that as one’s net worth (economic success) rises, one’s right to free speech shrinks accordingly. But the right to freedom of speech is a guarantee that one may speak, and nothing more. Like other rights, such as right to property, trying to guarantee equality in any manner other than equal protection of the law necessitates the violation of the underlying right--in this case, the right to speak. Muller and Kimmel are calling for nothing less than the repeal of free speech as an inalienable right held equally, and protected equally, for all people at all times--meaning no governmental discrimination based on race, gender, creed, sexual orientation, or net worth—and replacing it with a privilege granted by government permission.
And why? For what critical, overriding reason would any American attack a right so fundamental to intellectual freedom as freedom of speech? “Take the failure of anti-gun violence measures to move in Congress,”, they write. Also, “When Trump and Republicans passed their tax bill last December, it helped special interests and billionaires save money”; “Republican leaders won’t even allow votes to raise wages for rank-and-file workers or to fix the broken pensions system. But they have moved to make health care more expensive and to give tax breaks to billionaires. What we have is a rigged system and it must be fixed.”
Gun control; taxes; minimum wage laws. Translation: We, the Left, lost some elections and legislative battles, so we must stop the opposition from exercising their sacred freedom of speech rights. We can't let something as trivial as free speech stand in the way of ending private gun ownership, increasing taxes, and raising minimum wages--and getting our side elected. I guess Muller and Kimmel are too philosophically challenged to realize that if the Left can stop the Right from speaking, so the Right (or any other faction) can stop the Left.
Billionaires and corporations can’t hurt you. All they can do is spend their own money supporting candidates and issues they agree with, in order to persuade voters. Voters get to choose the candidate and analyze the viewpoint.
The government, however, can coerce obedience to its edicts under threat of fines or jail. The politicians, through their lawmaking powers, are the real threat. Campaign finance and related election expenditures like issue ads, both forms of free speech, are a crucial means for “We the people” to keep politicians accountable.
Likewise, so-called “dark money” means anonymous speech, an inalienable right. Anonymous speech has a long history of use by those fearful of intimidation and violence or governmental reprisals. Courts have long defended anonymous speech rights.
Nobody operates in a vacuum. Wealthy donors speak not only for themselves but also for the millions who agree with their viewpoints or their candidates. Statists want to silence them precisely because they are persuasive and effective. And when government silences the most effective voices, they silence us all.
Don’t let statists define “public interest” according to candidates and legislation they agree with, to the exclusion of dissenting voices. The only true public interest is in protecting the free speech of every individual, including associations of individuals, each to the extent of his means, motivations, and interests. There can be no means test on free speech.
The real purpose of “campaign finance reform” is to empower politicians to control the political life of the country at the expense of the citizenry. Your vote is not your most important voice. Your freedom of speech is your voice. Don’t vote your voice away. “Democracy for All” et al will repeal the First Amendment.
Recognize the DISCLOSE Act, the Democracy for All Amendment, and other “campaign finance” restrictions for what they are, attacks on free speech, and defeat them.
* [Tiffany Muller is the president and executive director at End Citizens United, a political action committee funded by grass-roots donors that is dedicated to getting big money out of politics and reforming the campaign-finance system. Marie Henselder Kimmel represents TriCounty American Promise chapter of Camden, Burlington and Gloucester counties. American Promise is a cross-partisan, nonprofit organization of citizen advocates for a constitutional amendment to restore authority to Congress to set reasonable campaign spending limits.]
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