Efforts to Amend Constitution to Limit Speech Will Fail, Citizens United President Says
Tampa (CNSNews.com) – On a day when President Barack Obama advocated a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, the head of Citizens United told CNSNews.com that such efforts would be a waste of time.
“They’re wasting a lot of their time and energy, which I love,” Citizens United President David Bossie told CNSNews.com. “I wish them all the best in their efforts. I hope that they work tirelessly to no result, because they want to create incumbent protection programs, which is what McCain-Feingold was, which is what the DISCLOSE ACT is.”
The landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission lifted restraints on political speech, allowing corporations and unions to spend money on elections as long as they do not donate directly to a candidate’s campaign. The ruling overturned much, but not all, of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act.
Obama and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have led the effort to curtail the impact of the ruling.
Schumer has proposed the DISCLOSE ACT, which would require greater disclosure requirements for anyone contributing money to the election or defeat of a political candidate.
But on Wednesday, during an online chat on the website Reddit, Obama suggested that the Constitution be amended to restrict political donations.
“Money has always been a factor in politics, but we are seeing something new in the no-holds barred flow of seven and eight figure checks, most undisclosed, into super-PACs; they fundamentally threaten to overwhelm the political process over the long run and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens,” the president wrote. “We need to start with passing the Disclose Act that is already written and been sponsored in Congress - to at least force disclosure of who is giving to who. We should also pass legislation prohibiting the bundling of campaign contributions from lobbyists.”
“Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn't revisit it),” Obama wrote. “Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change.”
Bossie said the Democrats’ goal is to gain advantage over Republicans:
“Citizens United [decision] leveled the playing field,” Bossie said. “What they loved was, for decades, the unions being able to spend their union members’ money unfettered. They loved to be able to have the George Soroses and the MoveOn.orgs. The second conservatives can do the same thing, they cry their crocodile tears.”
Bossie referenced oral arguments before the high court to demonstrate the dangers of political speech restrictions.
“The most important thing during my case was the government’s admission in the Supreme Court in oral arguments that the logical extension of McCain-Feingold was that if it could ban documentary films, it could ban books,” Bossie said. “That is a dangerous thing.”
The Republicans National Convention adopted a plank in their party platform for the full repeal of the McCain-Feingold law. Though the provision restricting outside groups from spending on elections was struck down in the Citizens United ruling, some of the law’s restrictions -- such as individual contributions limits, disclosure requirements and disclaimer requirements -- still exist.
Bossie called the GOP plank “a great first step.”
“The party must allow your average American to participate in the political process,” Bossie said. “McCain-Feingold criminalizes political speech. That’s all it does. The American people don’t realize just how arduous and rigid the federal election law is. The barriers to entry for your average person, there are criminal penalties for it if you do it wrong. That’s why people need batteries of lawyers and accountants to meet all the regulatory burdens the U.S. government puts on them.”
The Republican platform says, “We oppose any restrictions or conditions that would discourage Americans from exercising their constitutional right to enter the political fray or limit their commitment to their ideals. As a result, we support repeal of the remaining sections of McCain-Feingold, support either raising or repealing contribution limits, and oppose passage of the DISCLOSE Act or any similar legislation designed to vitiate the Supreme Court’s recent decisions protecting political speech in Wisconsin Right to Life v. Federal Election Commission and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.”
Citizens United says it is dedicated to restoring government to citizens' control. “Through a combination of education, advocacy, and grass roots organization, Citizens United seeks to reassert the traditional American values of limited government, freedom of enterprise, strong families, and national sovereignty and security,” its website says.