Harry Reid Displays Appalling Contempt for the First Amendment
Hans von Spakovsky /
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) gave an interview this week in which he displayed contempt for the First Amendment and the rights of Americans to engage in political activity and political speech.
Reid voiced support for a constitutional amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) that would severely restrict free-speech protections and promised he would force “multiple” votes to pass the measure.
Reid wants to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, which restored the rights of all Americans to engage in independent political speech. But he also wants to give Congress the power to limit spending by candidates on political campaigns or by anyone else in support of or opposition to candidates—a measure guaranteed to protect incumbents such as himself and make it even more difficult for challengers to knock off sitting members of Congress.
Reid’s actions would overturn Buckley v. Valeo, the 1976 Supreme Court decision holding that limiting campaign spending directly restricts political speech since it rations the ability to speak to potential voters through advertisements, brochures, and other political activities.
In the interview, Reid continued his unwarranted attack on the Charles and David Koch for having the temerity to participate in the political process by voicing their opinions and supporting candidates.
Reid said he is angry the Kochs have spent money in elections including “in state party [and secretary of state] races.” Yet, Reid displays no concern whatsoever over the many liberals, such as George Soros and Tom Steyer, who spend enormous amounts of money in the political field. Or the many unions that support Reid and his political party almost exclusively and who, as Kim Strassel of the Wall Street Journal has pointed out, spend far more on political campaigns than the Koch brothers.
Although the amendment sponsored by Udall and supported by Reid would limit fundraising and spending on political speech for Americans, there is one glaring exception in the amendment: It would not apply to the press.
The New York Times and MSNBC could continue to spend as much money, newsprint and airtime as they want supporting liberal candidates and attacking conservatives, but other non-media corporations would be strictly limited in what they could do, including conservative advocacy organizations such as the NRA and Heritage Action, which are nonprofits.
Candidates and ordinary Americans who wanted to fight back against the attacks of the liberal mainstream media would have their hands tied by a Congress filled with members who want to make sure individuals trying to unseat them (and their supporters) are strictly limited in the amount they could spend to publicly criticize them.
Reid seems to disagree with Benjamin Franklin, who wrote that “freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government.” And for those who say that restricting the money that can be spent on political speech and activity is not the same as limiting speech, that is like saying that the government limiting the amount of newsprint a newspaper can buy does not limit the newspaper’s speech.
It is a nonsensical argument – just like the arguments being made by Reid to cull the most important amendment in the Bill of Rights.