Why changing Constitution is not really necessary, smart
There is a widely held belief in our state that we would be better off if a constitutional amendment was passed overturning the Supreme Court’s decision in “Citizen’s United” giving First Amendment rights to corporations. We would not be better off. There are several reasons why proponents of that amendment are mistaken.
1) Limiting frees speech protection to individuals, and not groups and organizations, restricts liberty because individuals and groups are composed of individuals. The Declaration of Independence references “natural rights,” including “liberty.” It is unsound to believe that you can exercise a natural right as an individual but that you lose that right if you exercise it with one or more persons.
2) The First Amendment guarantees “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” The implication is that individuals are behaving in a group. It makes no sense to argue that this right applies only to one person. Individuals operating as a group own corporations.
3) Wealthy individuals, who own media, newspapers, TV and radio stations, magazines, can support anyone they want. A wealthy person who owns a corporation other than in the media business should have that same right.
4) Restricting First Amendment rights to individuals denies organizations the right to express their core beliefs. Environmental groups, labor unions, professional organizations, advocacy groups on any issue, either pro or con, should be allowed to freely express what they believe in and let people decide which viewpoint is correct. Restricting money spent on advocacy restricts public knowledge and freedom of expression.
5) The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Anne Applebaum in her book “Iron Curtain, the Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956” points out that communist regimes eliminated any organization that was not government-controlled. Independent groups ranging from the Boy Scouts, political parties, unions, peasant associations, corporations, professional groups, YMCAs and church groups lost all rights. You do not have a free society without freedom of expression. Restricting what can be spent on advocacy restricts freedom.
6) The media can provide millions of dollars worth of free publicity to any potential candidate, e.g., Hillary Clinton, the already anointed next president by the TV networks. What then is wrong if a corporation or a single billionaire decides to give money to an unknown candidate believed to be a potential worthwhile political leader?
7) Rich people support both political parties. It balances out.
8) Corporations are either controlled by one, a few, or many stockholders. Stockholders are people. Restricting a corporation and you are restricting individuals who own that corporation.
9) Incumbents have name recognition, which helps but does guarantee electoral success. In order to overcome that advantage of incumbency, money is needed to raise a challenger to the name recognition level of an incumbent.
10) Opposition to out of state money flowing to New Hampshire congressional candidates has no merit because what Congress does affects the entire nation. People have the right to influence the outcome of elections.
11) The idea that you can buy an election is not a proven fact. The recent defeat of Republican Eric Cantor in Virginia, where he outspent his rival 25 to 1, means that money alone is not always the most important factor in an election.
12) I know of people in Rindge who never would vote for candidate of a political party they disagree with, regardless of the amount of money spent in a campaign. Money only increases name recognition. I believe that campaign spending does not change anyone’s position on any issue, but, rather, helps identify in a voter’s mind the candidate who holds beliefs closest to his/her core values.
13) Competing ideas in an election is very healthy for a democracy. Money is needed to publicize what candidates stand for. Restricting campaign financing restricts freedom of expression.
14) The problem with mandated public financing of elections is that taxpayer money would be used to support advocacy of views an individual may oppose and, potentially, could be used to support extremist parties advocating racist or religious supremacy positions.
15) Finally, the idea that you do not want the rich to be too influential makes no sense unless you decide to abolish the rich. Now when and where has that ever worked to the betterment of most people?
We should be wary of changing our Constitution. The best of intentions often have terrible outcomes.
Rick Sirvint lives in Rindge.