Shredding the First Amendment?

The bloviating about the Citizens United decision has demonstrated, if anything, an extraordinarily weak understanding of the campaign finance landscape. Starting with the President’s outlandish claims in his State of the Union Address, followed by the fear-mongering by congressmen (such as the ineffable Alan Grayson), we’ve been getting the feeling that the lambasting of the Supreme Court has a lot to do with nearing midterm elections and very little to do with the facts.

Cue Sen. Chris Dodd’s reaction: Yesterday, he joined Sen. Tom Udall in introducing a constitutional amendment that allows Congress to regulate every avenue of campaign spending. This includes (but would not be limited to) the issue at hand in Citizens United: independent expenditures—spending by individuals or groups, not coordinated with candidates, to speak out about candidates in our elections.

The move to alter and undermine the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution points to a peculiar but strong animosity those in the reform crowd hold for free speech. Recognizing that the Supreme Court has provided strong protections of the rights enumerated in the First Amendment, Sens. Dodd and Udall have taken the last step available to them—try to sweep away these rights altogether.

Shocking though it may be that Sens. Dodd and Udall seems so blithely unconcerned about the rights upon which the country has become a vibrant and diverse democratic republic, we expect most lawmakers not to support such a radical departure from our more respected liberties. We are more interested in what Sen. Schumer and Rep. Van Hollen have been crafting over the past few weeks, as they have promised a more serious campaign finance pushback. Once it is released, we will weigh in. Stay tuned.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.