Free speech right abused by group

February 10, 2012 Editorials Print Print
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The impact of one of the more recent interpretations of the U. S. Constitution’s First Amendment is currently being witnessed across the nation in the 2012 presidential primary elections.


Chris James

The result of two U.S. Supreme Court rulings has created what have been termed Super PACs this election season.

PAC is an acronym for political action committee.

And, although PACs have existed for quite some time, the difference now is, Congress has lifted some of the regulations that limit the amount of campaign contributions PACs can give.

In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled on the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. They decided in favor of Citizens United with an opinion that took away the government’s power to place limits on how much money a corporation could independently spend for political purposes.

Later in 2010, a federal court of appeals used the ruling in Citizens United in the case Speechnow.org v. Federal Election Commission.

It lifted limits on individual independent expenditure-only contributions. The result is Super PACs.

The Super PACs are still required to list their donors and are not allowed to directly coordinate with a candidate’s campaign organization.

Despite that, they are still largely responsible for the barrage of campaign ads invading America’s televisions and computers, according to The Wall Street Journal report titled, “How Much Are Super PACs Spending?”

It has a listing of Super PACs, which candidate they support or oppose, how much they paid, who it went to, and what it was spent on.

Both rulings extended the protection of the First Amendment to cover campaign contributions as free speech.

I’m of the mindset that free speech is always a good thing but I don’t think free speech is the real issue in this situation.

Free speech is simply being used as a sacred American ideal by corporations attempting to have the government influenced through a flow of campaign contributions that the average citizen has no hope of matching.

For the record, corporations are not people.

They are made up of people. No matter how broad a constitutional brush you want to paint with, these are not the same things.

Soon, we will see exactly how an unlimited amount of campaign support funding from corporations and individuals affects the structure of our political system.

The interests of those wealthy enough to contribute vast amounts to a candidate’s campaign will take precedent in a winner-takes-all political system. It is foolish to assume otherwise.

In the end, I suppose it is not too far removed from the age-old practice of sending an army of lobbyists to bombard Capitol Hill into submission.

Instead of being killed quietly in the dark, it seems the American Dream is now being beaten to death in broad daylight.

—Chris James

Staff Writer

To contact Chris James, email pioneerphotog@occc.edu.

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