The 1st Amendment Protects Flag Burning and Big Money

Luke Wachob at the Center for Competitive Politics has an excellent Op-Ed up today at the Washington Examiner highlighting the hypocrisy of some Democrats who in previous years opposed usurping free speech when it came to flag burning, are now all in favor of assaulting the First Amendment freedom of campaign contributing and spending.

It has become a cause celeb, and a mighty profitable one at many liberal fundraisers, to bash heroic Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United and McCutcheon that liberate American political freedom and strengthen the First Amendment.

Tales of “legalized bribery” and “buying elections” infect the discourse like a putrid fever. But the reality is such decisions have been a boon to the little guy in US elections, allowing the Average Joe and Jane Citizen to have more access to money to fund their startup campaigns and causes.

And while the power of incumbency is still overwhelming in part because political campaigns and groups are still too regulated, it has been less powerful in recent election cycles. In 2010, all though it was going to be a good year for Republicans anyway, the Citizens United decision allow for independent groups to express themselves and inform fellow voters on who to support.

In 2012, GOP presidential contenders in the party’s primaries allowed rebel candidates like Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul to stay in the contest longer in part because they and their middle income supporters had the financial lifeline from Big Money donors like Sheldon Adleson, Foster Freiss, Peter Thiel, and of course, Charles and David Koch.

But back to the issue at hand. In his piece Wachob quotes from prominent Democratic senators like Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, DickDurbin of Illinois, and Tom Harkin of Iowa.

On the topic of flag burning, Mikulski says:

“I cannot support an Amendment to the United States Constitution which would, for the first time in our nation’s history, narrow the reach of the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech.”

Durbin says:

“The Bill of Rights has served this nation since 1791, and with one swift blow of this ax, we are going to chop into the First Amendment.”

Harkin says:

The Bill of Rights “has stood unchanged for more than two centuries, despite Civil War, Depression, two world wars, and powerful internal movements of dissent. Even at those times of profound turmoil, we resisted any temptation to amend the Bill of Rights.”

That last statement is particularly interesting because this author is pretty sure that all of those things the Iowa Democrat referenced were more dangerous than the danger of “unregulated dark money” in politics.

So why is an anti-flag burning amendment a bridge too far but a similar ban on political contributing isn’t?

Answer: Both were and are dangerous political ploys that need to be abandoned immediately if we are going to continue expanding the First Amendment by abolishing contribution limits that stifle free speech, free expression, and citizen education.


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