Pelosi: Amend the First Amendment

Terence P. Jeffrey, CNS News, April 19, 2012

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday endorsed a movement announced by other congressional Democrats on Wednesday to ratify an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would allow Congress to regulate political speech when it is engaged in by corporations as opposed to individuals.

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Television and radio networks, newspapers, publishing houses, movie studios and think tanks, as well as political action committees, are usually organized as, or elements of, corporations.

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 role 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 2010 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.

“We have a clear agenda in this regard: Disclose, reform the system reducing the role of money in campaigns, and amend the Constitution to rid it of this ability for special interests to use secret, unlimited, huge amounts of money flowing to campaigns,” Pelosi said at her Thursday press briefing.

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{snip} Rep. Jim McGovern (D.-Mass.) is one of the members sponsoring an amendment.

“I’ve introduced a People’s Rights Amendment, which is very simple and straightforward,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D.-Mass.) said at the forum. “It would make clear that all corporate entities, for-profit and non-profit alike, are not people with constitutional rights.

“It treats all corporations, including incorporated unions and nonprofits, in the same way, as artificial creatures of the state that we, the people, govern, not the other way around,” said McGovern.

Rep. Donna Edwards (D.-Md.) explained the basic principle this move to amend the Constitution is advancing.

“In Citizens United, what the court said is that Congress has no authority to regulate this kind of political speech,” said Edwards. “And so all of these constitutional amendments go to this question of giving Congress the authority that the Supreme Court, I think wrongly, decided isn’t within Congress’s constitutional—our constitutional purview.

“And so, you know, the traditional rights of free speech that we have known as citizens would not be disturbed by any of these constitutional amendments,” said Edwards. “But what it would do is it would say, all of the speech in which, whether it’s corporations or campaign committees and others engage in, would be able to be fully regulated under the authority of the Congress and—and under our Constitution.”

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