Home > Uncategorized > First Amendment? We don’t need no stinkin’ First Amendment!

First Amendment? We don’t need no stinkin’ First Amendment!

It gets harder all the time for me to have any respect for the chuckleheads in the senate. At least the U.S. senate. Today’s issue is the DISCLOSE Act. Seldom has any bill been put forward that has engendered opposition from so diverse a spectrum. The ACLU and the Heritage Foundation both oppose it, as does about 75 percent of the voters. Dozens of left-leaning groups representing millions of Americans have signed a letter opposing the DISCLOSE Act. Signers include the Alliance for Justice, League of Conservation Voters, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the Sierra Club, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Center for Science in the Public Interest, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The only leftists not signing were Castro and Che. Groups on the right are equally vehement in opposition, although sometimes for different reasons.

The first thing I noticed was the name. “Democracy Is Strengthened…” As many of you know, I absolutely detest it when our system of government is referred to as a democracy. As we all learned in high school, or before, America is a republic. Not a democracy, a democratic republic, or even a constitutional republic. Just a plain old republic. Hell, if it was good enough for Franklin and Jefferson, it’s good enough for me. That some large number of senators are more impressed with acronymal ability than accuracy and facts is just plain abominable.

The second thing I noticed was the complete lack of compatibility with the U.S. Constitution. For those of you who aren’t up to date on that document, let me refresh you. The first amendment to the constitution says, in part, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…” And yet, here they are, making a law that abridges the freedom of speech. I know that lawyers and judges have made things needlessly complex sometimes, but the first amendment is brilliantly simple and clear. Even senators should be able to grasp its essence. But here’s where they struggle.

The House Rules Committee met 6/23/10 to set the rules for debate on the DISCLOSE Act. The committee kept the public out of a hearing about a bill intended to promote “transparency” in elections. According to the Center for Competitive Politics, they sent one of their staffers to attend the hearing, but she was barred from entry. Apparently, as CCP pointedly said, “their version of democracy wasn’t strong enough to allow regular folks to attend their rubber-stamp hearing for the bill.”

The Rules Committee decided to allow only one hour of debate before a vote, which will probably occur either Thursday or Friday. All GOP motions, including one to extend the debate to four hours, were rejected. Apparently, the Democrats believe that only one hour of free speech is needed before voting on a bill that will severely restrict free speech.

The Democrats will only allow floor votes on five amendments. One would prohibit any company with leases on the outer continental shelf from making campaign-related expenditures. In other words, Congress would silence companies that are in favor of oil and gas drilling, but not the critics of offshore drilling. One could not find a clearer example of how this bill is intended to silence those whose political views the liberals don’t like.

Another amendment would force disclaimers on advertisements to include the city and state of the funder’s residence or principle office. This will lengthen the required disclaimers even more — even the ACLU says that these new disclaimer requirements are so burdensome that “they would either drown out the intended message or discourage groups from speaking out at all.”

Carved out of the act were the NRA, AARP and a couple of other large groups. Not surprisingly, organized labor, which notably was the single largest political spender in the 2008 election, some $420 million, is out of the bill. There’s no real effect on them, no real disclosure, no real reporting requirements. Considering that organized labor just declared their intention to spend $150 million minimally in this election to protect “incumbency,’”to quote them, I’m not surprised.

Also interesting is the provision for judicial review. A quick review of the lawbooks tells me that every other bipartisan campaign reform dating back to 1943 has contained a provision requiring an expedited Supreme Court review. There is usually a desire to allow the court to weigh in on the legislation, to ensure that it passes constitutional muster. This legislation attempts to force a litigant through two levels of review before reaching the Supreme Court. It also, interestingly enough, demands that congress be given a copy of the complaint(the lawsuit). It also takes effect thirty days after it’s signed, leaving a bare two months to try to obtain judicial review. A naked attempt to try to protect the dwindling democratic chances in November? Or am I just a cynic?

Reid, Pelosi, et. al., need a lesson in civics, if not civility. If they believe that America really needs this bill, they would be a little more transparent about both the subject matter and the process. The fact is, though, this bill is an attempt to silence dissent, and allow only the state-approved views to reach the masses.

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