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Viewpoint

Judd Gregg is wrong about Citizens United

I just returned from the inaugural Walter Peterson Forum for Civil Discourse, and it was time well and civilly spent. I have always appreciated how Judd Gregg can bring disparate views into clear focus.

Even though I am a Democrat, I have trusted Judd Gregg to be almost as tight-fisted as me. I remember a biographical sketch of his father, Hugh Gregg, that quoted the elder Gregg regarding the purchase of a car, “Let someone else pay for the newness.” That mind-set was enough for me to trust Judd would hold tight to the purse strings.

It was such an enjoyable evening at the Bass Hall, and truly civil. I just can’t understand how such an otherwise companionable, even fun individual can get it so wrong regarding Citizens United v. FEC. (I was going to put an exclamation point, but am hewing toward civil and the appearance of civil.)

During the Q&A, after the wonderful and revelatory talk by Senator Gregg, someone asked him about his opinion of Citizens United and its relative, McCutcheon v. FEC. Judd said he thought, “They got it right.” He said he thought there were some unintended consequences where independent groups with no limits on spending could alter a candidate’s message so much that a candidate without the same resources could not correct the impression created by the well-financed group. At least that is what I think Judd said.

My understanding is that the Citizens United decision drew an equation between money and political speech (money = political speech). I think Mr. Gregg said something to that effect as well.

I think that the United States is the greatest country on earth (Mr. Gregg said he thinks so, too). I think the USA is so great because each citizen is equal under the law (yes, I know that slaves were not emancipated until the 13th amendment in 1865, and suffrage was not gained by women until the 19th amendment in 1920); each person can voice an opinion regarding how this country should be run, in the public square. If enough people agree with that person opining in the public square, that person may get elected, should that person choose to run for office.

Women’s suffrage is a case in point. It is bedrock fundamental to this country that every person be given access to that public square. The legislation that was passed to protect access to the public square by the legislative body (the branch of our government tasked with that function) was struck down in an over-reach by the judicial branch. Some equation can be drawn between the public square in 1776 and mass media today. If this was 1776 and a citizen was barred from the public square — it would be cause for revolution, and so it should be today. Every citizen who loves this country should steadfastly oppose a court decision that gives Sheldon Adelson power to diminish our franchise.

No, Mr. Gregg, Citizens United was not a good decision. Citizens United is a giant step toward the dismantling of our great democratic experiment here in the United States. We have held to the value and integrity of the individual for so long in this country; let us not give it away because of a short-sighted Supreme Court decision.

Chris Salmon lives in Antrim.

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