This column presents facts regarding the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Wisconsin State Constitution, and various other documents in reference to modern topics. Mark hopes to encourage interest in those works so that others can consider whether our government is practicing within its constitutional limits. In the last category, he may indicate his opinion. Mark is a resident of New Berlin. Readers are encouraged to visit the following sites for more information on the United States Constitution and Thomas Jefferson's views on politics and government.
Entry 48S Current Event
According to an opinion article written in the Wall Street Journal; April 30,2010
The ACLU Approves Limits on Speech
If that headline has a certain man bites dog quality, it's because for almost 40 years the ACLU was the one major liberal organization that opposed campaign finance restrictions as violating the First Amendment. Although it supported disclosure of large contributions to candidates and public financing of campaigns to facilitate more speech, it resolutely opposed any limits on campaign giving and spending—including limits "voluntarily" accepted as the price of taking public funding.
Expenditures by candidates (including of their own funds), contributions, advertising by political parties, labor unions, nonprofit organizations and even business corporations were all viewed by the ACLU as embodying fundamental constitutional rights. As a result, its policy was clear and concise: "Limitations on contributions or expenditures made by individuals or organizations for the purpose of advocating causes or candidates in the public forum impinge directly on freedom of speech and association. Their implementation poses serious dangers to the First Amendment. They should be opposed in candidate as well as referenda elections." Until now.
Over the objections of some key senior staff and by a very narrow vote, the ACLU National Board of Directors rejected core aspects of that longstanding policy earlier this month.
The organization will now accept "reasonable" government limitations on contributions to candidates. The ACLU doesn't say what "reasonable" means, so the government will doubtless supply the definition. This will inevitably benefit those who are already elected and disadvantage challengers. Indeed, for 35 years "reasonable" limits on contributions have demonstrably helped incumbents and suppressed insurgent candidates.
The ACLU has also endorsed government limits on spending by candidates who accept public financing. Here, too, restrictions will empower incumbents by forcing challengers to agree to limit their campaigns in order to get public funding. This is precisely why Barack Obama rejected such limits for his presidential campaign. But now he and the ACLU will support imposing them on others.
Incumbents love contribution limits and public financing schemes that require challengers to accept contribution limits because the less speech challengers have, the better off incumbents are. In effect, under the ACLU's new policy, insurgent candidates will be forced to waive their right to more speech as a condition of accepting public financing, which will never be set at levels sufficient to generate a viable challenge.
Nonetheless, we've come to this: The premier First Amendment organization in America now favors limitations on the First Amendment in the area in which all agree it must have its most powerful application—political speech during election campaigns.
ACLU vs. The First Amendment
US Constitution; First Amendment:
Quote of Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804: "The firmness with which the people have withstood the... abuses of the press, the discernment they have manifested between truth and falsehood, show that they may safely be trusted to hear everything true and false and to form a correct judgment between them."
We the People:
By a slim majority of its leaders, the ACLU now trusts power-hungry government officials to define “reasonable” limitations to funding speech. Thomas Jefferson trusted the people to discern the message regardless of who paid it.