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Cruz Stands Against Democrats at First Amendment Hearing

conservative activists at 1st amendment hearing

Nothing captures the hypocrisy of the Left quite as well as yesterday’s debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Democratic Sen. Tom Udall's S.J. Res 19.

As we noted in our article “Democrats File Bill to Repeal the First Amendment” S.J. Res 19 is clearly intended to undo the freedom of speech guarantees found in the First Amendment and the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. Undoing Citizens United has been a top Democratic Party priority, but S.J. Res 19 is also a blatant incumbent protection bill that might appeal to some establishment Republicans.

One of our friends who attended the hearing observed that Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York was representative of the leftwing tilt of the hearing as he railed against “undisclosed donations,” the Koch brothers, billionaires, flood of dark money, shadowy money,  CEOs, corporations, Super PACs, elite donors, Citizens United, conservative activists on the Supreme Court, and — get this — worried about contributions that could unseat incumbents with shadowy money!  

Fortunately, one Senator had the courage, and the intellectual wherewithal, to knockdown the proponent’s arguments in favor of the Resolution, and in the process, expose their hypocrisy.

And that Senator was Texas’ Ted Cruz.

“Senate Democrats are seeking unfettered power to regulate and stifle political speech, which is why today, it’s more important than ever to champion the freedoms enshrined in our Constitution,” Sen. Cruz said. “Once Congress can prohibit spending money, it can prohibit almost every form of speech, whether it comes to books, films, television advertisements, or events.”

You can see Sen. Cruz in action at the hearing through this link and this link.

Cruz has been a consistent and powerful advocate of the First Amendment and his recent op-ed in The Wall Street Journal stands as one of the best rebuttals we have seen of the Left’s push to regulate speech.

Forty-one Democrats have now signed on to co-sponsor New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall's proposed amendment to give Congress plenary power to regulate political speech. The text of the amendment says that Congress could regulate "the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to federal elections." The amendment places no limitations whatsoever on Congress's new power.

As Sen. Cruz noted in his WSJ piece, two canards are put forth to justify this broad authority. First, "money is not speech." And second, "corporations have no free speech rights."

Neither contention bears even minimal scrutiny says Cruz. Speech is more than just standing on a soap box yelling on a street corner. For centuries the Supreme Court has rightly concluded that free speech includes writing and distributing pamphlets, putting up billboards, displaying yard signs, launching a website, and running radio and television ads. Every one of those activities requires money. Distributing the Federalist Papers or Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" required money. If you can prohibit spending money, you can prohibit virtually any form of effective speech.

As for the idea that the Supreme Court got it wrong in Citizens United because corporations have no First Amendment rights, that too is demonstrably false. The New York Times is a corporation. The television network NBC is a corporation. Book publisher Simon & Schuster is a corporation. Paramount Pictures is a corporation. Nobody would reasonably argue that Congress could restrict what they say—or what money they spend distributing their views, books or movies—merely because they are not individual persons.

Proponents of the amendment also say it would just "repeal Citizens United" or "regulate big money in politics." That is nonsense says Senator Cruz. Nothing in the amendment is limited to corporations, or to nefarious billionaires. It gives Congress power to regulate—and ban—speech by everybody.

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42 CoSponsors for SJ Res 19

Just Google the name of the bill. Here's the list of co-sponsors (40 Dems and 2 "Independents"):