“Drunk on power: campaign reformers can’t help it”

by Walter Olson on October 29, 2007

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Tom Harkin (D-Ia.), Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) have teamed up to co-sponsor a proposed constitutional amendment that “would overturn U.S. Supreme Court decisions that limit Congress’ power to regulate the funding of political campaigns. … the amendment would repeal the 1st Amendment as it relates to campaign finance. This would be the first time in our history that we altered the Constitution to curtail liberties protected by the Bill of Rights. It would also have the effect, not accidental, of protecting incumbent members of Congress from being unseated at the polls.” (Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune/syndicated, Oct. 28).

P.S. Then there’s the possibility that the talk-radio-stifling Fairness Doctrine will be reintroduced in 2009 or after (John Fund, OpinionJournal.com, Oct. 29). And while “Crooked Timber” may be a pleasantly evocative name for a weblog, would arch-liberal Isaiah Berlin really have been so keen to use the state’s coercive power against unwanted speech? (Sullivan, Bainbridge)(& welcome Salon Blog Report readers).

{ 7 comments }

1 ME 10.29.07 at 1:47 pm

“This would be the first time in our history that we altered the Constitution to curtail liberties protected by the Bill of Rights.”

But only insofar as those liberties have been extended to include “money as free speech” which is as dubious a concept as we see anywhere these days.

I’d like to see the constitutional amendment also limit the untrue speech of corporations.

There’s nothing illegal about news agencies lying to the public, for example. The example of journalists who sues FOX news for dismissing them after they refused to lie about PCB’s in an article. The court ruled that FOX had a constitutional right to lie.

Money != speech.
Corporations != persons.

I’m sorry, but campaign contributions from a corporation should not fall under protected civil rights.

2 Demosthenes 10.29.07 at 5:06 pm

Mr. Olson:

This amendment is necessary to preserve, not harm, free speech. Corporate money is inhibiting the political debate in this country, and harming our Republic. Corporations do not give money out of a sense of patriotism like you and me. They give money to gain access and get politicians to do them favors. Whether it is unions and trial lawyers (Democratic-leaning groups) or pharmaceuticals and energy companiexs (Republican-leaning), these companies are not helping free speech and democracy one bit.

3 randy 10.29.07 at 7:45 pm

Saying that money=speech is crazyness. If you don’t believe me, try going the Safeway, filling a basket full of groceries and talking the checker into letting you take the stuff home. In politics as everywhere else money is a means of exchange.

4 OBQuiet 10.29.07 at 11:02 pm

I am not a corporation. Why am I not allowed to pay for a national commercial for my preferred candidate?

Other than the fact that I do not have the means to pay for said commercial.

Its obviously true that money!=speech. But it takes money to get that speech heard. If Walter paid for the newsletter to be printed and mailed to every household in the country making the case for Rudy in 2008, how is that wrong? If he and Ted did it together? Or the owners of a company? Isn’t a corporate contribution the equivalent of the stockholders giving? How is this different from giving the money to the candidate’s campaign directly?

Drop all restrictions but make EVERYTHING public immediately. That way the public will know who is footing the bill and can react accordingly.

5 Philadelphia Steve 10.29.07 at 11:55 pm

Re: “This would be the first time in our history that we altered the Constitution to curtail liberties protected by the Bill of Rights.”

You’re kidding, right?

The Bush Administration has spent the past seven years acting as if the entire Bill of Rights is at the sole discretion of the President, and you say this is the “first time”?

Or do Conservatives, as always, consider it DIFFERENT, when George W. Bush does it?

6 OBQuiet 10.30.07 at 6:09 pm

Philly Steve,

So, even assuming your rant is correct, your saying that since the Pres can do it Congress should too?

7 Moral Hazard 10.31.07 at 12:01 am

Actually I would say that the 18th amendment (prohibition) reduced the power of the 10th amendment. That was back when the 10th amendment was actually recognized by the courts. Nowadays Congress for some reason no longer requires a constitutional amendment to make substances illegal.

Comments on this entry are closed.