Law Every Democrat in the Senate Supports a Constitutional Amendment That Would Radically Curtail Freedom of Speech - The Democracy for All Amendment aims to mute some voices so that others can be heard.

Are Jacob Sullum of Reason Magazine's gripes valid?

  • Yes

    Votes: 13 22.0%
  • No

    Votes: 25 42.4%
  • Most are valid, some are not

    Votes: 5 8.5%
  • Most are not valid, but some are

    Votes: 8 13.6%
  • They're equal portions valid and invalid

    Votes: 1 1.7%
  • I don't know/I'm not sure

    Votes: 7 11.9%

  • Total voters
    59

Iwasamwillbe

Rational Big-Brained Deep-Thinking Philosopher
kiwifarms.net

Every Democrat in the Senate is backing a constitutional amendment that aims to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the 2010 decision in which the Supreme Court lifted legal restrictions on what corporations and unions are allowed to say about politics at election time. That would be troubling enough, since Citizens United, which involved a film that was banned from TV because it was too critical of Hillary Clinton, simply recognized that Americans do not lose their First Amendment rights when they organize themselves in a disfavored way. But the so-called Democracy for All Amendment goes much further than nullifying one Supreme Court decision. It would radically rewrite the constitutional treatment of political speech, allowing Congress and state legislatures to impose any restrictions on election-related spending they consider reasonable

"To advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral process," Section 1 says, "Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections." By allowing restrictions on money spent by anyone to influence elections, that provision would nullify a principle set forth in the landmark 1976 case Buckley v. Valeo.

In Buckley, the Supreme Court upheld the Federal Election Campaign Act's limits on campaign contributions, which it said were justified by the desire to prevent "corruption and the appearance of corruption." But the Court overturned FECA's limits on spending by candidates and on independent spending by individuals and groups. Those limits, the Court said, "place substantial and direct restrictions on the ability of candidates, citizens, and associations to engage in protected political expression, restrictions that the First Amendment cannot tolerate."

The rationale for that conclusion is not, as critics often claim, that "money is speech." The point, rather, is that people must spend money to communicate with large numbers of their fellow citizens. Limits on spending therefore restrict their ability to exercise their First Amendment rights. If the government banned computers and smartphones, that would clearly violate the First Amendment—not because computers and smartphones arespeech but because they are necessary to participate in online debate.

The Democracy for All Amendment would ditch this understanding of the First Amendment and instead rely on legislators' self-restraint in deciding which limits on spending are "reasonable." Courts reviewing the resulting rules would have precious little guidance in deciding when they went too far.

Section 2 of the amendment adds that legislators "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." In other words, a complete ban on election-related speech by citizens organized as corporations, including a wide range of nonprofit interest groups across the political spectrum, would be presumptively reasonable, regardless of timing. By contrast, the ban overturned by Citizens United applied only to messages that mentioned a candidate for federal office within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election.

The implication, perhaps, is that a complete ban on election-related spending by individuals or by groups not organized as corporations would not be constitutional. But how close legislators could get to that policy without violating the First Amendment is anybody's guess.

"Every American deserves to have an equal voice at the ballot box, regardless of the size of their bank account," says Sen. Tom Carper (D–Del.), a lead co-sponsor of the amendment. Chris Coons, the other Democratic senator from Delaware, likewise promises that the amendment will "give all Americans an equal voice in our elections."

Carper and Coons are not saying that every American should get an equal vote. They are saying that every American should have an equal influence on the political debate, which is impossible but would seem to require, at the very least, that no one be allowed to spend more on election-related speech than the poorest American can afford. The Supreme Court has explicitly said that such equalization of speech is inconsistent with the First Amendment. As now-Justice Elena Kagan noted in a 1996 law review article, it is well-established that "the government may not restrict the speech of some to enhance the speech of others."

The third section of the amendment contradicts the other two sections by stating that "nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press." The amendment's backers seem to think they are constitutionalizing the "media exemption" from limits like the ones overturned in Citizens United. Under that exception, news outlets such as The New York Times and CNN were free to talk about political candidates close to an election, even though they were organized as corporations.

As scholars such as UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh have shown, however, the "freedom of the press" protected by the First Amendment does not refer to a particular profession. The clause was meant to protect anyone who uses a technology of mass communication—the printing press at the time and, by extension, TV, radio, and the internet today. On its face, then, Section 3 of the Democracy for All Amendment invalidates the rest of it.

Even if it didn't, what would stop interest groups from using their own media outlets (such as the ill-fated NRA-TV or The Daily Signal, published by the Heritage Foundation) as channels for their political speech, thereby qualifying for constitutional protection even under the Democrats' sharply circumscribed, industry-specific freedom of the press? Presumably, legislators and judges would have to start drawing distinctions between "real" and "fake" media outlets, a judgment for which the Constitution provides no guidance.

Carper describes this license for censorship as "a straightforward constitutional amendment that will restore the health and integrity of our campaign finance system." That's true only if "health and integrity" require muting some voices so that others may be heard. But that goal is plainly at odds with freedom of speech and freedom of the press. While the amendment has zero chance of actually being adopted, the fact that the entire Senate Democratic Caucus thinks it's a fine idea speaks volumes about the party's disregard for those freedoms.
 

Rikka Takarada 2

I can't access my old account
kiwifarms.net
So, the answer to big groups allegedly having too much influence (shocking that more people coming together generates more influence, I know) is... to give all the power over who gets to spend what to the fucking government! I definitely can't see a state deciding that spending money would be proportional to seats in the legislature for political parties (as some idiots in the UK used to seriously suggest) or any similar nonsense that'll make gerrymandering look perfectly legitimate; not at all...
 

Marco Fucko

Just tell me that you want me!
kiwifarms.net
Dems are hard playing their hand for the US to be more direct democracy than representative republic. This amendment in addition to amnesty for illegals and eliminating the electoral college (assuming a perfect world for these types) = ONLY popular voting. Forget balanced representation, the immigration centers would have all the power. Every single sparsely populated area would be at the mercy of the densely packed coasts and metropolitan cities.
 

Save the Loli

kiwifarms.net
Oh noes, companies worth billions won't be allowed to influence the political system as much as they used to, this is authoritarian communist horror!

Fuck outta here with this clickbait bullshit. Wish this is what the left meant when they mean "free speech absolutism" instead of crying about people saying nigger on the chans. Give a halfway sane Supreme Court and this amendment would be one step toward making the country a better place instead of a staged battle between shitty right-wing corporations and shitty left-wing corporations who mysteriously agree with each other on 90% of issues that actually matter.
 

Arctic Fox

Does it have to be so cold?
kiwifarms.net
Not gonna lie, wouldn't mind the political power of corporations being stomped flat, but this type of legislation is extremely abusable. Needs a lot of tweaking or even just a full re-write. How about this instead?

The political power of multinational corporate entities has reached a point where it is no longer tolerable. This legislation, through it's approval and application by the federal and state governments respectably, shall reduce the influence of these corporations on our elections. Under this amendment, no corporate entity with ties to foreign powers may engage in advertising for political candiates, or donate funds to said candidates. A corporation can not be classified as a citizen, and can not be treated as such with how these entities can handily influence our national proceedings.
Secondly, no corporate entity may lobby the federal government, state government, or the governorship of our nations' territories. Though, as an important exception, US based local businesses, of a size and wealth generally smaller than the average corporation, may lobby local, state, and the federal government for greivences. Non corporate groups, such as protest, charity, etcetera, are not bound by this amendment.
 

SmallTalk201

kiwifarms.net
Not gonna lie, wouldn't mind the political power of corporations being stomped flat, but this type of legislation is extremely abusable. Needs a lot of tweaking or even just a full re-write. How about this instead?

The political power of multinational corporate entities has reached a point where it is no longer tolerable. This legislation, through it's approval and application by the federal and state governments respectably, shall reduce the influence of these corporations on our elections. Under this amendment, no corporate entity with ties to foreign powers may engage in advertising for political candiates, or donate funds to said candidates. A corporation can not be classified as a citizen, and can not be treated as such with how these entities can handily influence our national proceedings.
Secondly, no corporate entity may lobby the federal government, state government, or the governorship of our nations' territories. Though, as an important exception, US based local businesses, of a size and wealth generally smaller than the average corporation, may lobby local, state, and the federal government for greivences. Non corporate groups, such as protest, charity, etcetera, are not bound by this amendment.
why are you expecting a corrupt entity with all the power to pass a law promising to police it self?
 
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TowinKarz

Thoroughly Unimpressed
kiwifarms.net
The problem is, the spending of money is required not only to bribe someone, but to just do innocuous things like printing flyers and paying your internet bill. There isn't any way to illegalize the spending of money with the goal of stopping the wealthy and the elite from doing the former that won't also radically affect the ability of average folks to do the latter.

The solution isn't to try and make government fair, but to acknowledge it will always be quasi-corrupt and accordingly shrink it's size and ability to influence things so that the opportunity for bribery and wanton graft doesn't happen because the things it seeks to control aren't even for sale....
 

Splendid Meat Sticks

Castigat ridendo mores
True & Honest Fan
kiwifarms.net
Not gonna lie, wouldn't mind the political power of corporations being stomped flat, but this type of legislation is extremely abusable. Needs a lot of tweaking or even just a full re-write. How about this instead?

The political power of multinational corporate entities has reached a point where it is no longer tolerable. This legislation, through it's approval and application by the federal and state governments respectably, shall reduce the influence of these corporations on our elections. Under this amendment, no corporate entity with ties to foreign powers may engage in advertising for political candiates, or donate funds to said candidates. A corporation can not be classified as a citizen, and can not be treated as such with how these entities can handily influence our national proceedings.
Secondly, no corporate entity may lobby the federal government, state government, or the governorship of our nations' territories. Though, as an important exception, US based local businesses, of a size and wealth generally smaller than the average corporation, may lobby local, state, and the federal government for greivences. Non corporate groups, such as protest, charity, etcetera, are not bound by this amendment.
Oh yeah, that's super enforceable and not at all abusable.
 

Bum Driller

Cultural Appropriator & Cowboy Chemist
kiwifarms.net
I'm not 'murican citizen, but similar laws have been either proposed or passed elsewhere in the Western world in the past decade or so, and in general I must be in favor of them, since they are most agreeable. If there is one glaring flaw in our democracy(And there is more than one, but let's focus on this one), it's that only the rich or those who have rich patrons have any real changes of getting elected. Not because of corruption, not because of nepotism, but simply because with money you can advertise yourself better. This is a situation that seriously needs to be fixed, and although I don't know if this is the right solution, it's at least a step towards a right direction.
 

Clop

kiwifarms.net
Not gonna lie, wouldn't mind the political power of corporations being stomped flat, but this type of legislation is extremely abusable.
Fuck me, I can't even name a single goddamned legislation from the past twenty years that didn't qualify as up-the-ass abusable. The people making legislation know so fucking little of how the world works. It's already an over-qualification for them to know that electricity doesn't generate in a socket.
 

SmallTalk201

kiwifarms.net
The problem is, the spending of money is required not only to bribe someone, but to just do innocuous things like printing flyers and paying your internet bill. There isn't any way to illegalize the spending of money with the goal of stopping the wealthy and the elite from doing the former that won't also radically affect the ability of average folks to do the latter.

The solution isn't to try and make government fair, but to acknowledge it will always be quasi-corrupt and accordingly shrink it's size and ability to influence things so that the opportunity for bribery and wanton graft doesn't happen because the things it seeks to control aren't even for sale....
Which get replaced by unofficial groups (such as mafia or political machines) who perform the function the official government lacks.
the de facto power of these unofficial groups forms an ad hoc government over time which subverts the official minarchist one over time
 
I'm not 'murican citizen, but similar laws have been either proposed or passed elsewhere in the Western world in the past decade or so, and in general I must be in favor of them, since they are most agreeable. If there is one glaring flaw in our democracy(And there is more than one, but let's focus on this one), it's that only the rich or those who have rich patrons have any real changes of getting elected. Not because of corruption, not because of nepotism, but simply because with money you can advertise yourself better. This is a situation that seriously needs to be fixed, and although I don't know if this is the right solution, it's at least a step towards a right direction.
Yeah but we don't want to emulate failing European states. Your politics are corrupt as hell.
 

Bum Driller

Cultural Appropriator & Cowboy Chemist
kiwifarms.net
No, its a step towards tyranny.

The government cannot be trusted with the power to determine who can and can not speak. Full stop.
I have hard time seeing how limiting the campaign funding is equal to limiting your ability to speak your mind. If something it just levels the playing field in such a fashion that the game is not totally rigged in the favor of the rich.
 

Stab You in the Back

kiwifarms.net
I have hard time seeing how limiting the campaign funding is equal to limiting your ability to speak your mind. If something it just levels the playing field in such a fashion that the game is not totally rigged in the favor of the rich.
But you're giving the government the power to rig the game in their favor. Right now, anyone can form an organization and use that organization to advance their political goals. After the amendment, only those organizations approved by the government will have that ability. Do you realize what that means? It means that only the rich will be able to buy their way into Washington. In the end, you'll have done nothing to prevent money from influencing politics, but will guarantee that only people with money can have influence.
 

MembersSchoolPizza

Sworn Brother of the Cult of Browning
kiwifarms.net
Oh noes, companies worth billions won't be allowed to influence the political system as much as they used to, this is authoritarian communist horror!
Compared to the alternative, in this case, yes.

I have hard time seeing how limiting the campaign funding is equal to limiting your ability to speak your mind. If something it just levels the playing field in such a fashion that the game is not totally rigged in the favor of the rich.
Implying that the government is not made up mostly of the wealthy-to-rich already, and that the important parts that aren't themselves wealthy or rich aren't bought and paid for by those that are.

No, what this does is merely trade a quasi-transparent system of demi-plutocracy for a shadowy and opaque one. I prefer to know who my mandarins are.
 
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