Sen. Ted Cruz And The ACLU Both Agree That New Campaign Finance Amendment Is Bad
Senator Ted Cruz took the Senate Floor yesterday to fight for Saturday Night Live and its ability to lampoon politicians, including his example Tina Fey’s impression of Sarah Palin. The issue at the core of the debate was not comedy, but a constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to prohibit corporations from making certain political speech.
This amendment comes as a response to the Supreme Court decision that declared money equals speech and, since corporations are people, should not be limited in terms of how much they can donate to political candidates.
On the surface it seems like a good idea, limiting the influence big polluters or technological monopolies have to control who gets elected. Yet, this particular amendment is troubling, because it calls for Congress and State governments to have the power to regulate the spending of money “and in-kind equivalents” in support of a political candidate.
Although the amendment does explicitly state that “Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress the power to abridge the freedom of the press,” there are other free speech issues at stake.
For example, say a person wants to fund the creation of informational pamphlets about abortion laws in their state during the election. If one candidate is for legal abortion and the other against it (as is often the case) the money to produce the pamphlets could be construed as funds spent “in support of, or in opposition to” the candidates running for office in her state.
A report from the The Week called Cruz’s free speech argument “laughable nonsense.” While it may be hyperbole to say that the it would be tantamount to a repeal of the First Amendment, the argument has true merit and shouldn’t be discounted just because it comes from Cruz. No less a liberal bastion than the ACLU shares Senator Cruz’s position and oppose the amendment. “In our view, the answer to [the campaign finance] problem is to expand, not limit, the resources available for political advocacy,” the group wrote in their statement on the issue.
For those who argue that the amendment would not be abused in the ways they suggest, as the ACLU puts it, the law would be “surgically drafted to protect legitimate speech.” “Experience over the last 40 years has taught us,” they respond, “that money always finds an outlet and the endless search for loopholes simply creates the next target for new regulation.”
When something is so egregious that Ted Cruz and the ACLU agree that it’s bad, perhaps it’s time to listen.