Despite more pressing and urgent business at hand for the Senate, Democrats have placed the DISCLOSE Act – a bill which requires disclosure of political activity by restricting the First Amendment – on the front burner.
The Act is sponsored by New York Senator Chuck Shumer, who recently blatantly admitted the need to curb freedoms assured by the First Amendment.
I believe there ought to be limits because the First Amendment is not absolute. No amendment is absolute. You can’t scream ‘fire’ falsely in a crowded theater. We have libel laws. We have anti-pornography laws. All of those are limits on the First Amendment. Well, what could be more important than the wellspring of our democracy? And certain limits on First Amendment rights that if left unfettered, destroy the equality — any semblance of equality in our democracy — of course would be allowed by the Constitution. And the new theorists on the Supreme Court who don’t believe that, I am not sure where their motivation comes from, but they are just so wrong. They are just so wrong.
Shumer isn’t the only Democrat who wants to re-write the First Amendment. Nancy Pelosi previously stated her desire to amend the First Amendment using the same DISCLOSE Act.
Pelosi said the Democrats’ effort to amend the Constitution is part of a three-pronged strategy that also includes promoting the DISCLOSE Act, which would increase disclosure requirements for organizations running political ads, and “reducing the roll of money in campaigns” (which some Democrats have said can be done through taxpayer funding of campaigns).
The constitutional amendment the Democrats seek would reverse the Supreme Court’s 2009 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In that decision the court said that the First Amendment protects a right of free speech for corporations as well as for individuals, and that corporations (including those that produce newspapers, films and books) have a right to speak about politicians and their records just as individuals do.
If you’re wondering how this would lead to censorship of everyday things like books, papers, or the internet, Chief Justice Roberts can explain…
The case in question led to this opinion written by Roberts:
“The government urges us in this case to uphold a direct prohibition on political speech,” wrote Roberts. “It asks us to embrace a theory of the First Amendment that would allow censorship not only of television and radio broadcasts, but of pamphlets, posters, the Internet, and virtually any other medium that corporations and unions might find useful in expressing their views on matters of public concerns.”