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“Donors Before Constituents”: The First Amendment, According To Mitch McConnell

Have you heard that Senate Democrats are working this week to repeal free speech?

I did, yesterday morning, from Mitch McConnell.

Have you heard that Democrats are going to go out and “muzzle” pastors who criticize them in the pulpit?

We did, from Ted Cruz.

Did you hear that Democrats are going to shut down conservative activists and then “brainwash the next generation into believing that this is how it should be”?

We did, last month, from the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins.

A good rule of thumb in politics is that the scarier someone sounds, the more you should doubt what they’re saying. Another good rule in politics is not to trust what Mitch McConnell says about money in politics.

Because, yes, that’s what we’re talking about here. Not a secret new Orwellian regime. Not a new anti-pastor task force. What we’re talking about is simply limiting the amount of money that corporations and wealthy individuals can spend to influence our elections.

This week, the Senate is debating a constitutional amendment that would overturn recent Supreme Court decisions that have paved the way for an explosion of big money in politics. In those decisions, including Citizens United and this year’s McCutcheon, the Supreme Court radically redefined the First Amendment to allow corporations and the wealthy to drown out the speech of everyday Americans with nearly unlimited political spending. The Democracy for All amendment would restore to Congress and the states the power to impose reasonable restrictions on money in politics, just as they had before the Supreme Court started to dismantle campaign finance laws.

So, what are Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz so scared of?

In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that Mitch McConnell supported the very laws that he is now dead-set on blocking. Back in 1987, McConnell said he would support a constitutional amendment to allow Congress to regulate independent expenditures in elections — just as the Democracy for All amendment would. And then he introduced that very constitutional amendment. Either McConnell has dramatically changed his mind regarding what constitutes a threat to the First Amendment, or he’s motivated by something more cynical.

So, if Mitch McConnell doesn’t actually think that limiting the amount of money that wealthy interests can spend on elections is a violation of the First Amendment, what is he up to? Could it be that he now finds it more useful to court the dollars of major donors than the votes of his constituents?

Washington is the only place where campaign finance reform is a partisan issue. A poll this summer found that 73 percent of voters support a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics. Americans know that our First Amendment is about protecting the speech of citizens, not the interests of wealthy campaign donors.

Faced with a large, bipartisan grassroots movement that threatens their big-spending friends, the only arguments that Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz have left are wild accusations, flat-out falsehoods, and outlandish interpretations of the Bill of Rights.


By: Michael B. Keegan, The Huffington Post Blog, September 9, 2014

September 10, 2014 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Money Is Not Speech”: McConnell’s Appeal To Millionaire Donors Makes Case For Constitutional Amendment On Political Money

He surely did not intend it, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has made a stunningly compelling case for a constitutional amendment allowing Congress and the states to restore sensible limits on the influence of money in politics. We appreciate his help and his clarity.

The good news is that the Senate will vote on just such a proposal next month, the Democracy for All Amendment (S.J. Res 19). Senators still undecided about the amendment should study Sen. McConnell’s remarks carefully.

Speaking to a roomful of ultra-rich political investors in June (audio here), McConnell voiced his delight at their collective success in unharnessing political money. “The worst day of my political life” was when then-President George W. Bush signed the McCain-Feingold law with its limits on independent political spending, he declared. He paid particular tribute to industrialists Charles and David Koch, the country’s most prolific political spenders: “I don’t know where we’d be without you,” he told them.

McConnell calls the Democracy for All Amendment radical; it is anything but. The amendment simply restores an understanding of the Constitution that was in place for at least a century until the Supreme Court began unraveling it in the 1970s. It affirms that money is not speech and that no one, however wealthy or powerful, has a constitutional right to spend unlimited sums to influence our elections.

A poll conducted for CBS News in May found that 71 percent of Americans support reasonable limits on political spending. A survey taken this month in battleground states for this November’s elections—including McConnell’s home state of Kentucky—found 73 percent support a constitutional amendment.

The senator argues that proposals to limit political spending are aimed at silencing critics of government. Singling out Common Cause, he charges that those who favor a system that pays for campaigns with a mix of public funds and small-dollar donations from individuals are really trying to elevate Democrats and defeat Republicans.

Neither claim stands up to scrutiny. The Democracy for All Amendment and the spending limits it would permit would protect the First Amendment; every citizen’s right to express his or her views, however unpopular or unconventional, would remain fully intact. Corporations also would continue to speak; the amendment simply would permit sensible controls on how much they and individuals can spend to influence elections.

As for public financing, Republicans routinely run and win using public funds in states where voluntary public financing systems are in place. In my home state of Connecticut, GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley has opted to run on public financing this year; Arizona Governor Jan Brewer used her state’s public financing system in her victorious 2010 campaign. The “clean elections” or “fair elections” systems in these states encourage candidates of all parties to focus on issues important to the general public rather than the parochial concerns of a handful of funders.

The real radicals are those who argue that their free speech rights include the right to use their wealth—corporate or individual—to drown out the voices of other Americans. They view the Citizens United decision, which invited corporations to spend freely on our elections, as—in Sen. McConnell’s words— having “leveled the playing field for corporations.”

The American people know better.


By: Mles Rapoport, The American Prospect, August 28, 2014

August 31, 2014 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Democracy, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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