Democratic efforts to amend
the U.S. Constitution to give Congress the power to regulate campaign financing are an assault on the First Amendment, Sen. Ted Cruz wrote in a commentary in The Wall Street Journal.
The Texas Republican charged that the Democratic Party was turning its back on centuries of bipartisan consensus and is now "trying to regulate the speech of the citizenry."
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Democratic efforts stem from frustration over the U.S. Supreme Court
decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which protected free speech, Cruz wrote.
He characterized Democrats as waging a concerted campaign against free speech: The Internal Revenue Service wants to know what books citizens are reading; the Federal Communications Commission wants to place observers in newsrooms; and Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid has used Senate floor orations to slander the political speech of private individuals, Cruz wrote.
With the proposed constitutional amendment, Democrats are out to "expressly repeal the free-speech protections of the First Amendment," Cruz said.
Proponents of the amendment falsely claim that "money is not speech" and that "corporations have no free speech rights," according to the senator. "If you can prohibit spending money, you can prohibit virtually any form of effective speech," Cruz wrote.
The New York Times, Paramount Pictures, and Simon & Schuster are all corporations, Cruz wrote.
"Nobody would reasonably argue that Congress could restrict what they say — or what money they spend distributing their views, books, or movies — merely because they are not individual persons," Cruz argued.
Yet the Democratic proposal is not limited to "nefarious billionaires. It gives Congress power to regulate — and ban — speech by everybody," Cruz wrote.
While the amendment includes the plank, "[n]othing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress the power to abridge the freedom of the press," it includes nothing similar to protect individual political speech, he said.
If the amendment took effect, Congress could restrict the political activities of groups from the National Rifle Association and the Sierra Club to anti-abortion and pro-choice groups, according to the senator. Congress could forbid unions to organize workers and preachers to urge their flock to vote. Bloggers could be stopped from spending money to criticize elected officials. Movies and books could be banned.
"There's no chance that Sen. Udall's amendment" will receive a two-thirds vote in favor in both houses of Congress and be ratified by three-quarters of the states, Cruz wrote.
"Still, it's a reflection of today's Democratic disrespect for free speech that an attempt would even be made," he said. "There was a time, not too long ago, when free speech was a bipartisan commitment."
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