6-5-14 – We ALL have a right to freedom of the press…

Posted by Rob Roper

… And Assembly, and Speech, and to petition government for redress of grievances. At least for now.

On June 3, Vermont’s own senator Patrick Leahy lead a hearing to discuss amending the U.S. Constitution to essentially gut the First Amendment. Leahy said in a press release, “It [the amendment] would explicitly authorize Congress and the states to regulate the raising and spending of money for political campaigns, including independent expenditures.”

Let’s be very clear about what this is. “Authorize Congress… to regulate… political campaigns” means that incumbent politicians will be empowering themselves to create laws that criminalize the political activities of their opponents.

This should send a shiver down the spine of every American. It is the most undemocratic, tyrannical suggestion since the Alien & Sedition Acts, which outlawed speech critical of the federal government. The fact that 41 elected U.S. Senators, all Democrats except for one socialist independent (guess who!), have endorsed this proposal is as frightening as it is revealing.

Leahy’s press release states that the amendment language with the most support amongst the Senate sponsors is one proposed by Tom Udall (D-Colorado), which states, “Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect [to] the Federal elections … [and] State elections.” It also states, “Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress the power to abridge the freedom of the press.”

But here’s the problem (or maybe the salvation) with this concept: Freedom of the press applies to EVERY citizen. You and I have just as much a right to print (or broadcast in this day and age) and distribute our opinions as does the New York Times or CBS News. The Constitution does not create “the media” as special, elite class of people with unique rights the rest of us don’t have. Under the Constitution, “the media” are just citizens like you and me exercising the First Amendment rights we all enjoy.

The First Amendment gives all citizens these rights – to say what we want (speech), to print, broadcast and distribute what we want (press), to do so in coordination with whomever we want (assembly), and to target those very incumbent politicians with our criticism (to petition government for redress of grievances) – without any sort of interference from said government. “Congress shall pass no law” abridging these rights. Leahy, Sanders et al want to wipe this magnificent cornerstone of American liberty away.

Opponents of “big money” in politics are fond of saying corporations are not people. But this amendment would specifically grant and protect rights of corporations such as the New York Times and Fox News, but would eliminate these same rights of free press, peaceable assembly, and to petition government for human citizens.

For us humans, these inalienable rights endowed by our Creator would be eliminated and replaced with privileges granted by and regulated at the whim of a class of political elites protecting their own self-interests. Just how do you think this is going to work out, and to whose benefit?

Two things to remember as this abomination proceeds. 1) The most powerful special interest group in Washington D.C. is not the oil industry, or the Teamsters Union, it is 535 incumbent senators and congressmen. And, 2) the really big money in politics is not the hundreds of millions allegedly spent by the Koch brothers, or similar amounts spent by George Soros in order to change minds. It is the TRILLIONS of our tax dollars redistributed by the incumbent political class in order to buy votes.

These people want to eliminate the First Amendment to the Constitution. The bigger question is, will we let them?


The real “big money” in politics is not hundreds of millions in campaign donations, it’s TRILLIONS of taxpayer dollars redistributed by politicians to buy votes. (Photo Credit, Springfield Vermont News)



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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

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