The Movement: The Left's War on the First Amendment
During this Congress, there have been at least 11 resolutions filed by Democrat lawmakers calling to amend the Constitution because of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission. All of these amendments will chill free speech and would make the Founders cringe. As President of Citizens United, I find it quite disappointing how none of these lawmakers have a clue what the United States Supreme Court actually decided in Citizens United.
Last week, you had Nancy Pelosi saying that with Citizens United, “the Supreme Court had unleashed a predator that was oozing slime into the political system, and that, indeed, is not an exaggeration.” Oozing slime – really, Nancy? Having more speech, not less, in the political process is paramount to our democracy. Without robust free speech in political discourse, incumbents have an inherent advantage. That is why President Obama and Democrats in Congress tried so hard to pass an incumbent protection bill, aka the DISCLOSE Act, back in 2010. They failed, and Nancy Pelosi was fired as Speaker of the House.
Then you have former White House Chief of Staff and now Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel spouting off about the Citizens United case on MSNBC this week. Emanuel called the decision “one of the single worst decisions by a court” and said, “It will be a blemish on all of their records for allowing this decision.” I’m not surprised to see Rahm Emanuel lash out against Citizens United. Quite frankly, I was a bit disappointed that in the days following our decision the ever-so-subtle Rahm did not send a dead fish or horse head to our offices.
While Rahm has singled out Citizens United, his liberal colleague Senator Charles Schumer took this assault on our decision and the Supreme Court a step further, declaring , “It is the worst decision since Plessy v. Ferguson – I believe that – of the United States Supreme Court.”
The Court has made mistakes in the past. Plessy v. Ferguson and Dred Scott v. Sanford certainly stand out. But can one really argue with a straight face that Citizens United, which restored the First Amendment protection of political speech, is the modern equivalent of Plessy or Dred Scott? Bombastic statements like this are proof that liberals do not understand the fundamentals of the Citizens United case and are not interested in knowing the truth about the case.
In 2007, Citizens United sought to promote and broadcast via video-on-demand a film critical of then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Under the speech-stifling provisions of McCain-Feingold, if Citizens United had broadcast "Hillary The Movie" or run advertisements promoting the film, its officers could have been subject to prosecution and potential imprisonment for up to five years. This means I could have gone to jail for doing the very same thing Michael Moore had done back in 2004 with "Fahrenheit 9/11." The Supreme Court struck down this piece of the McCain-Feingold law and stated in the opinion for the majority that it’s “stranger than fiction for our Government to make... political speech a crime.”
That is why it is so disturbing to see 11 constitutional amendments and counting trying to take away free speech. These amendments have been proposed to curtail the right to political speech that was restored by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC. These proposed amendments take one of two forms --amendments that would deny First Amendment protections to all except “natural persons” and amendments that explicitly grant Congress and the States the power to regulate, limit, or prohibit political contributions and expenditures.
Both forms of amendments, whether seeking to rewrite the First Amendment or seeking to expand the power of incumbents to regulate their challengers, are aimed at chilling political speech and reducing the number of speakers in the political arena. It is always a slippery slope when the government can decide what is free speech. When Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Rahm Emanuel, Chuck Schumer, and others of the crazed left make it their high mission to defeat Citizens United, I know I’ve struck a chord.
It’s no surprise to see liberal incumbents fighting to silence voices of dissent. It’s also no surprise that a chorus of liberal special interest groups have joined their fight. Robert Weissman of Public Citizen, Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21, and even former Republican nominee to the FEC Trevor Potter have utilized their non-profit corporations to fight to overturn Citizens United. I personally don't agree with their crusades to silence the freedom of speech, but as a staunch defender of the First Amendment, I'll fight to my dying day for them to be able to use corporate assets to voice their opinions.
I am sure in the coming weeks and months you will hear a lot of falsehoods about the Citizens United decision. The left’s war will only intensify if President Obama loses in the fall, because they will need a scapegoat for their failed liberal agenda. I will wear it as a badge of honor if the Citizens United case is used as a foil by the left. In the end, we won because Citizens United was on the right side of the First Amendment.