They may not say it publicly, but many Democratic state legislators in Wisconsin clearly have issues with the First Amendment. Why else would they be openly advocating to change it with continued demands to amend one of the country’s first freedoms?
While campaign finance reformers will never admit it, what they’re advocating will do exactly that. While they hide it with rhetoric about “just wanting to get the money out of politics,” what they really are doing is muzzling the public.
Instead of advocating for a better educated public, we see demands for controlling what that public sees and hears. Campaign finance reform at its core translates to “We don’t like what we’re seeing on our television screens or hearing on our radios and we want to silence it.”
This has been at the heart of the left’s still festering anger at the 2010 Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court case, the case which overturned many of the country’s campaign finance laws. So instead of trying to educate the public about undoing and reversing the legal ruling has become a major cause for the progressive agenda. For those in Wisconsin, this has meant a series of non-binding, politically vacuous resolutions in municipalities around the state.
After having spent years targeting Democratic-friendly municipalities with such resolutions in low-turnout elections, activists want to take the strategy statewide. This time with a state resolution urging the Wisconsin congressional delegation to pass a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United. The plan is to have a statewide referendum during the November 2018 election.
The resolution; similar to one passed in 16 other state, reads:
Resolved by the assembly, the senate concurring, That the following question be submitted, for advisory purposes only, to the voters of this state at the general election to be held in November 2018:Question 1: Overturning Citizens United. “The U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizens United and related cases allow unlimited spending to influence local, state, and federal elections. To allow all Americans to have an equal say in our democracy, shall Wisconsin’s congressional delegation support, and the Wisconsin legislature ratify, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution stating:1. Only human beings—not corporations, unions, nonprofit organizations, or similar associations—are endowed with constitutional rights, and2. Money is not speech, and therefore limiting political contributions and spending is not equivalent to restricting political speech?”
The resolution has to pass both legislative chambers to even get to voters. It’s non-bind nature essentially makes it pointless since it can only urge action, not change existing law. With Republicans controlling the state legislature, few expect any movement on the resolution.
That legislative reality still hasn’t stopped demands for a hearing from Democratic lawmakers and liberal activists who have their hearts set on dismantling the 1st Amendment; or silence those who have the legal right to petition the government and persuade the voting public.
Tuesday, the Assembly Committee on Constitution and Ethics held its first meeting of the 2017-18 legislative session. Representative Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) and Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) requested that Committee Chairperson, Rep Scott Allen (R-Waukesha), include Assembly Joint Resolution 53 on today’s public hearing agenda. AJR 53 would place a statewide advisory referendum question on the ballot asking voters whether they support a constitutional amendment overturning the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC. AJR 53 was referred to the Committee on Constitution and Ethics in May. Yet, Rep. Allen refused the Democratic Legislators’ request, calling the advisory referendum, a democratic process defined and allowed under Wisconsin law, “politics at its worst.”
What likely is “politics at its worst” is the resolution’s timing. With the referendum planned for the November 2018 ballot instead of the next scheduled election, there’s clear intention it’s nothing more than a “Get out the Vote” scheme to help Democrats up and down on the ballot.
Then there’s what the resolution itself says. By stating that “Money is not Speech,” the intent is to cut straight into the heart of the Supreme Court’s legal reasoning on campaign finance issues (See: Buckley v. Valeo). As the high court itself wrote on the subject, money is speech because it is necessity to help finance the message:
A restriction on the amount of money a person or group can spend on political communication during a campaign necessarily reduces the quantity of expression by restricting the number of issues discussed, the depth of their exploration, and the size of the audience reached. – Buckley v. Valeo, 1976
As much as one may not like what’s being spent, the U.S. Constitution is extremely clear about saying you not only have a right to say it, you a right to finance it as well.
So until those calling for an end to Citizens United acknowledge this dichotomy in their argument, or admit the duplicity in their action, what they are really push for is an end to the First Amendment as we know and love it.
There is no other way around it.