9-9-14 – Citizen’s United Amendment is Foundation for a Police State

posted by Rob Roper

In an alarmingly lopsided 79-18 vote yesterday, the Senate voted to advance an amendment to the Constitution proposed by Tom Udall of New Mexico that would radically eviscerate our rights under the First Amendment. Although this proposed amendment is being promoted with a populist message – getting big, corporate money out of politics — its true objective is to give incumbent politicians the power to control and criminalize the activities of their political opposition. It is not hyperbolic to call this a totalitarian and tyrannical idea.

This amendment is being prominently supported by Vermont’s two senators, Leahy and Sanders, and Representative Welch has voiced his approval. It reads…

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.

Let’s break this down, point by point.

To advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral process…. This is fluff. It is meaningless, and, in fact, misleading.

… Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections. This gives incumbent politicians complete control over everyone who chooses to participate in the political process – either directly, indirectly or even unintentionally — because any effective organized opposition necessitates the raising and/or spending of money. Putting a sign on you lawn costs $5.

Anti-First Amendment activists are fond of chanting money is not speech. Maybe not. But the First Amendment currently guarantees not just the right to speak your opinions, but the rights to print and distribute your opinions, which costs money, to organize and coordinate with others who may share your opinions, which can cost money, and to petition government for redress of grievances, which also can cost money if done in an organized fashion.

“Reasonable limits.” Who decides what’s reasonable? Why, incumbent politicians, of course! If you disagree with their definition of reasonable and try to speak out, under the new amendment they can regulate you, fine you, imprison you.

“The raising and spending of money.” That encompasses, with the possible exception of standing on a street corner giving a speech (provided you didn’t spend money on gas to drive to the location, or print you speech out on a piece of paper) pretty much anything.

…by candidates and others to influence elections. Who a candidate is is fairly obvious, but “others to influence elections?” That is anybody incumbent politicians decide it is. A novelist who writes a politically charged book, or a moviemaker, or a musician who writes a powerful anti-war song could be targeted as an “other” influencing an election because, what influences elections? Again, whatever incumbent politicians decide influences elections. A strike, for example, could be timed to influence an election, and if money were raised or spent to organize that strike, incumbent politicians would now have powers to punish those involved.

Congress and the States shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation… What’s “appropriate?” Incumbent politicians decide what’s appropriate. What limits are placed on this power? Apparently none.

…and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law… “Other artificial entities [that are not natural persons] created by law” means ANY joining together of more than one person. It could be a book club. A marriage. And consider that relationships that are not “required by law” today could be made to be so by Congress in the future. (But only if, ya know, they think it’s “appropriate”). If your book club reads political books, for example, Congress or your state legislature could pass a law requiring you to register as a political organization attempting to “influence elections.” If you failed to comply, you would be a criminal.

….including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections. Shutting them down.

Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press. This was put there obviously to keep the mainstream media at bay or even cheering on a process that is otherwise totally hostile to their existence. However, who is a member of the press? Incumbent politicians will decide. Does a blogger have freedom of the press? Does a radio talk show host? A non-profit website? Does a group of citizens sending out a letter (or putting an ad in the paper, or starting a town newsletter) to their neighborhood to oppose say… since it’s topical let’s say a gas pipeline going through their town or wind towers on their ridgelines? This amendment essentially gives incumbent politicians the power to pick the people who are legally allowed to talk about them publicly.

This proposed amendment, should it pass, would provide a firm foundation for a future police state. It is totally anathema to what makes our country remarkable and free.

Our Founding Fathers established a country of free people based on this cornerstone of liberty:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Seventy-eight senators just voted to take these rights away. Will we let them?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

John Cisar September 9, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Corporations are creatures of the state. Any lawmaker who truly wanted to end corporate steering of elections would address corporate privilege and artificial personhood as the problem without expanding constitutional power. But since policymakers enacted the policies which created this problem but won’t admit responsibility, they instead choose to conceal poor policies using claims of lack of regulatory empowerment.

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Patricia Crocker September 10, 2014 at 11:01 am

These same people have no problem with Unions spending their money in politics.

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farrightwing September 11, 2014 at 10:32 am

This must be opposed with everything we have. This is the formula for the police state a la Stalin and the Bolsheviks. No Way!

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