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ALDRICH: Second attack on the First Amendment
Democrats’ new financial-disclosure law could intimidate campaigners
Question of the Day
Democrats are committed to attacking our First Amendment rights by passing a bill that will limit freedom of speech for groups with whom they disagree. It is a tragedy that our lawmakers would rather rig the system in their favor than fulfill their elective responsibility of upholding and protecting the Constitution. This sorry spectacle confirms the importance of ensuring that our governmental system adheres to the Constitution.
The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision earlier this year was a major victory for liberty-loving people in that it overturned parts of the McCain-Feingold Act that had abridged First Amendment rights for more than seven years. The most troubling aspect of this is that the Democrats are fully aware that this legislation will not hold up to the scrutiny of the Supreme Court but, if passed, would have major implications on the upcoming elections because the court probably would not address the issue before November. This Saul Alinsky-type approach is obvious: Its goal is to take away our rights as Americans.
The Orwellian language of the Disclose Act raises questions about the honesty and integrity of these politicians. The full, specious, title of the bill is Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act. While the title is ironic, the provisions exempting unions present a paradox. If transparency is the end goal, why would you exempt anyone? Backhanded deals of this type are more closely identifiable with the Soviet Politburo or Marxist-styled labor unions than the American Congress the Founders designed.
It’s also interesting to note the strange bedfellows created as a result. North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler brokered a deal to exempt the National Rifle Association from the Disclose Act if it would remain silent and not speak against the bill. Has the NRA really sold out the pro-liberty cause in order to secure its own safety? Obviously, the elimination of our First Amendment will ultimately eliminate the Second Amendment. Without freedom of speech, the rest of our rights are subject to the arbitrary whims of tyrannical politicians.
Ironically, the ACLU has criticized the bill, stating, “This bill fails to improve the integrity of our campaigns in any substantial way while significantly harming the speech and associational rights of Americans.”
The group is specifically concerned about an amendment that would force advertisements to include additional language in their disclaimers noting the city and state of the funder. They recognize that this will discourage speech and add more red tape to an already convoluted system.
Freedom of speech is the essence of our liberty. Supporters of the First Amendment rejoiced after the victory in the Citizens United case. The Disclose Act would overturn the rights we fought so hard to win back. There is no doubt that this legislation would not pass the test of constitutionality, but it would require many more years in court battles to reverse this result. As vigilant defenders of the Constitution, we need to recognize the pernicious threats to our basic liberties, and this should be everyone’s focal point at all times.
Gary Aldrich is president of the Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty.
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