Power to the people, not the corporations

Should we limit money in politics? If so, how? These have been big questions the past two weeks after Republican Senator Ted Cruz took to the floor against Senate Joint Resolution 19.

This resolution is a proposed amendment to the Constitution, which would limit campaign finance spending. Limiting campaign finance spending is essential.

The resolution addresses all the important questions, such as freedom of the press and limits of speech. You may recognize that freedom of press was the big issue for Ted Cruz. However, right now, within the amended version, it protects freedom of the press under Section 3.

Ted Cruz is afraid that we will throw the cast of Saturday Night Live (SNL)in jail for their political satire during election season. We can acknowledge that his fear is not valid.

SNL, a form of media, is covered under the First Amendment. Even more importantly, Section 3 states explicitly that “Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press.”

In the wake of Citizens United, it is important to note that there has been virtually unlimited spending by various entities like Super PACs.

I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about Citizens United, but this is dangerous. It fundamentally undermines the democratic ideals that this great nation is built on. Their money drowns out our voices and our abilities to make our ideas known.

We have to take back our power over this democracy. Citizens United robbed our voices to a large degree. It made us spectators of our own electoral process. Now is the time to reform campaign finance and make it inclusive again. If we want to be informed citizens, we need to reform laws and work to make ourselves a part of the process. We live in one of the most informed times that has ever existed, yet we ignore the inequality in our society that allows these laws to exist.

It’s impossible to believe that this resolution is perfect; it’s too open ended and doesn’t shut off all the loopholes for donation through non-human entities.

But it begins to acknowledge that only people are people. It begins to abridge newly created rights for corporate entities that only serve to increase the difference between the wealthy and the rest of us.

Citizens United divided us under the auspices of free speech. Now is the time to put forth a new narrative, to redefine our nation and to change the power structure that governs our politics.

The time for change is now, and the means are right in front of us. Senate Joint Resolution 19 works toward a more equal say in politics, which is exactly what we need.


Free speech should be protected above all else

Once again, money is an issue in politics.

In 2009, the Supreme Court struck down the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act, a piece of legislation that prohibited corporations and unions from paying for advertisements favoring any candidate in periods immediately preceding elections.

The decision sparked a debate about the most fundamental rights and privileges of people, money and corporate roles in our political process.

The Supreme Court already justified its decision by arguing that the First Amendment not only protects a citizen’s right to free speech, but also free speech itself, therefore protecting the speech of corporations and unions as well as of individuals.

Among those who opposed the ruling, President Obama said that it “gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington, while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates.”

A proposed amendment to the Constitution, Senate Joint Resolution 19, would overturn the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on this issue. In order to limit the money in politics, it would “regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.”

The federal government, meanwhile, “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.”

But there is a catch. Since most media outlet—whether newspapers or TV stations—are corporations, their spending may also be limited. They could be stopped, legally, under this amendment, from spending more than what is deemed “reasonable” on television, newspapers, and in other forms of mass media—a direct violation of the First Amendment right to freedom of the press.

Critics of S.J. Res. 19 include Ilya Shapiro, who noted, “It’s quite obvious that, under this proposed amendment, Congress could pass a law prohibiting corporations and their agents from, say, supporting or opposing candidates during a broadcast other than a news program.”

And, according to Kermit Roosevelt, professor at the University of Pennsylvania, “Generally, if the government has the power to regulate some activity, it can impose civil liability or criminal penalties as it chooses.”

This amendment is an amendment for obtrusive and oppressive government, for government that the people fear, not government that fears the people.

It is an amendment for government that eliminates criticism by the press and by the people. That is the equivalent of tyranny, and it has no place in the United States.