Previously, George Will‘s column in WaPo was criticized here by Move to Amend’s Rochester affiliate coordinator, Sam Fedele, and the target of Will’s criticism, Congressman McGovern. In this piece, MTA’s Michael Coburn of Tacoma, WA weighs in to criticize how Will framed his criticism of the amendment proposed by McGovern.
The article from George Will is typical, false framing from the right. And it is a trap, well laid by the conservatives to bait us into defending concepts and “progressive” ideas that may need to be left unaddressed. Mr. Will sets up a false frame in his opening remarks charging that liberals want to limit the speech of people as they gather in groups. This is actually two lies in one. But our members seem so dedicated to preserving the rights of “electioneering speech” currently enjoyed by labor unions that we fail to take a consistent stand about what should truly be at issue. And the conservatives will abuse those internal inconsistencies over and over again as George Will has done.
The first and most important of the two lies is the charge that we seek to place any limits on what sane people call “political free speech.” We must learn to absolutely distinguish between “political speech” and “electioneering communications” because the issue of freedom to espouse one’s views in regard to ideology and religion, and the freedom to indulge in issue advocacy (political speech) are not being attacked in any way by insisting on rules concerning “electioneering communication.” This is the first “big lie” being used against our efforts to not just reinstate McCain Feingold, but to expand it in a way that insures government of, by and for the people as opposed to a government of, by and for special (money) interests.
The second lie from Mr. Will is that corporate funds of union funds are representations of the political and/or electioneering opinions of all the members of the group from which the funds are derived. In the case of the Sierra Club or the NRA, the claim of join ideological opinion and issue advocacy may be valid. But in the case of business entities (including labor unions) where profit and wages are the primary concerns, the claim of “shared” ideology rises to the level of support or condemnation of a particular candidate for office is irrelevant as well as being a lie. In the real world, such support or condemnation of a particular candidate for office can be fully exercised outside any group. The selection of one candidate over another is espoused and absolutely valid when that choice is made by the individual through contributing to his or her favored candidate/representative in whatever way the individual deems appropriate:
“A government is republican in proportion as every member composing it has his equal voice in the direction of its concerns: not indeed in person, which would be impractical beyond the limits of a city or small township, but by the representatives chosen by himself and responsible to him at short periods.”
~~Thomas Jefferson to Samual Kercheval, 1816
My own theory is that the forgoing observations concerning group speech tell us why the first amendment clearly distinguishes the groups that have constitutionally protected speech. The groups afforded that protection are the press, the church, and the people assembled specifically to pronounce shared political opinion. There should be few doubts as to the reasons for such protections and such limitations.
When the First Amendment declares that the Congress shall make no law abridging free speech, it is assumed that the statement applies to sane, breathing persons within the jurisdiction of the Constitution itself. The prohibition does not extend to foreign nationals funding a corporate entity in the United States, parrots, whales or even individual lunatics who scream “FIRE!” in a crowed theater. Literal (textual) interpretations as applied by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case will forever be uncertain and prone to error.
The Roberts Court, in its Citizens United ruling, has clearly illustrated the need for a Constitutional clarification on this issue. Such an important decision should not be left to the whims of an un-elected and unaccountable judiciary. Constitutional protection for incorporated entities should be clarified by the people through acts of ratification in order to remove such decision from the province of the judiciary and the TwoParty. Stated in a different way: if incorporated entities are to enjoy any sort of protections from the legislative and executive acts, then these protections should be explicitly stated in one or more Constitutional amendments ratified by the people.
PLEASE FEEL FREE TO USE ANY OF THIS LANGUAGE YOU MAY WANT TO USE.
[Mike Coburn adds that these are his own opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of the members of Move to Amend or The Amendment Gazette.]