The U.S. Senate slipped out of D.C. for its August recess just as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid scheduled a vote on a constitutional amendment that would repeal the free speech section of the First Amendment. The vote on S.J. Res. 19 will take place at 6 p.m. EDT on Sept. 8.
The amendment now reads in its entirety:
“Section 1. To advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral process, Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.
“Section 2. Congress and the States shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation, and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.
“Section 3. Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press.”
Somewhere along the way someone fixed one of the glaring flaws in the amendment. Previously, the amendment said: “Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress the power to abridge the freedom of the press.” After it was pointed out that the amendment, by omission, appeared to grant the states the power to abridge freedom of the press, Section 3 was written to also bar states from abridging freedom of the press.
The amendment would prohibit free speech by corporations or organizations — unless they buy a press. How hard would that be?
No one is asking whether “reasonable limits” might include zero dollars.
The amendment is an attempt to undo the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United that held the federal government may not restrict unions or corporations from spending money on elections.
“This partisan effort to weaken the First Amendment is the clearest proof yet of how out of touch the Democrat majority has become from the needs and concerns of ordinary Americans and how ill-equipped they are to lead in these challenging times,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was quoted as saying after the vote was scheduled. “Washington Democrats have forgotten that the First Amendment is meant to empower the people, not the government.”
But Reid said in May: “I urge my colleagues to support this constitutional amendment – to rally behind our democracy. I understand what we Senate Democrats are proposing is no small thing – amending our Constitution is not something we take lightly. But the flood of special interest money into our American democracy is one of the greatest threats our system of government has ever faced. Let’s keep our elections from becoming speculative ventures for the wealthy and put a stop to the hostile takeover of our democratic system by a couple of billionaire oil barons. It is time that we revive our constituents’ faith in the electoral system, and let them know that their voices are being heard.”
Hopefully, the amendment is little more than a political ploy by Reid and his ilk who are trying to suck up to their constituents who hate anyone else spending their own money on their own ideas and politics. The amendment, to become a part of the Constitution, would have to be passed by two-thirds of both the Senate and the House and be ratified by three quarters of the states.
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 like the IRS and efficient like the VA and responsive like the BLM.
We urge you to tell Sen. Reid what you think of his attempted evisceration of the First Amendment online at http://www.reid.senate.gov/contact by sending an email or calling one of the phone numbers listed. — TM
Correction: In a previous editorial we mistakenly stated a ruling by Judge Robert Estes was a federal case. Estes is a state judge.