Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one — for now

Nevada senior Sen. Harry Reid — during one of his many full-throated anti-Koch brothers rants — recently told the world he knows better than the Founders just how much free speech the citizens of this country should be allowed. He announced he is backing an amendment to the Constitution that would tear the heart out of the First Amendment and stomp on it.

The amendment put forth by Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., would allow Congress and the states to set limits on contributions to candidates and limits on how much of one’s own money could be spent in support of or opposition to a candidate. Of course, such limits favor incumbents.

The amendment expressly states: “Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress the power to abridge the freedom of the press.”

Problem solved. The Koch brothers buy a press — or a television network or a string of radio stations or a website.

But there is a glaring omission in the amendment. It gives both Congress and the states the power to limit campaign spending, but it only prohibits Congress from abridging the freedom of the press. Since such an amendment would take precedent over the 14th Amendment barring states from usurping fundamental rights, presumably a state could abridge the freedom of the press to spend money supporting or opposing a candidate editorially.

Those niggling little problems aside, Reid’s whole argument that there must be equality imposed on speech by limiting the corrupting power of money is bogus. The rich may try to buy votes through advertising and other means, but any such transaction takes a willing seller.

In his prepared text Reid declared: “The Supreme Court has equated money with speech, so the more money you have the more speech you get, and the more influence in our democracy. That is wrong. Every American should have the same ability to influence our political system. One American, one vote. That’s what the Constitution guarantees.”

Might we remind the senator from Nevada that his vote in the Senate carries the same weight as those of the senators from California and New York and other states where far more “Americans” reside. So the Constitution does not guarantee one American, one vote. Each state has two votes in the Senate, no matter its population.

In addition to being a senseless and futile gesture, such an amendment would require a huge bureaucracy to enforce, but, of course, this bureaucracy would be even handed and fair like the IRS and efficient like the VA and responsive like the BLM.

Reid called campaign spending by concerned citizens “one of the greatest threats our system of government has ever faced.”

No, the greatest threat to our system of government is a massive Leviathan of a bureaucracy that sweeps aside freedoms for self-serving reasons and spends our grandchildren into eternal, crushing debt.

The Koch brothers can spend every dime of their billions arguing for conservative policies, but it will be for naught if there is no one willing to agree.

Corporations can spend millions selling New Coke and Edsels, but there have to be willing buyers.

Freedom of speech needs no ground leveling. The power to persuade is not the exclusive domain of the loudest, otherwise every debate victor would be the one with the biggest bullhorn.

If this democratic Republic is not a farce, the voters will, eventually, figure out the best route to a more prosperous and just future.

We fundamentally and strongly oppose any amendment that would jeopardize our freedoms of speech and press. — TM

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