Money don’t talk

 Politics + Other Mistakes
By AL DIAMON  |  January 3, 2014

The problem with our constitutionally protected right to free speech is that the Founding Fathers neglected to limit it to people who agree with me. As a result, there’s lots of speech that’s stupid, self-serving, or just plain boring. You should see my emails.

Clearly, we need a constitutional amendment to rectify this situation.

I would phrase this amendment in the simplest possible language: If you want to say something, check with me first. I’ll let you know if it’s acceptable.

Of course, there’s no chance a super-majority of Congress would approve such a proposal (understandable, since it’s unlikely I’d ever let any of them talk again), but there is an alternative method whereby amendments can be put before the states for ratification. It’s called a Constitutional Convention, something that hasn’t occurred since the original document was drafted.

Being not only autocratic, but also lazy, I haven’t the energy to organize such an undertaking, but fortunately, a group called We The People Maine is attempting to do it for me. WTPM has begun collecting signatures calling on the Legislature to authorize a Constitutional Convention to consider an amendment that states, “Corporations are not people” and “Money is not speech.” All this effort needs is one additional line to clarify that “You are wrong, and I am right,” after which I’m fully on board with it.

Still, I can understand why everyone isn’t as enthusiastic as I am about curtailing our rights.

First, there’s a little problem with constitutional conventions, which is that they can’t be limited in the amendments they might propose. If the wrong delegates get chosen to represent we the people, they might decide to tinker with the right to bear arms, the right to legal abortions, the right of states to authorize same-sex marriage, or the right to equality under the law for any number of annoying minority groups. There’s real risk in messing around with fundamental law.

Second, there could be problems with the language of WTPM’s proposed amendment. The first part of it reads, “The rights of corporations and artificial entities are subordinate to the rights of natural persons. Corporations and artificial entities are the creation of government for the purpose of promoting the life, health, and general welfare of the public and may be regulated, modified or abolished by government to accomplish that purpose.”

I have three concerns with this. The first is the inconsistent use of the serial comma. The second is that if this became the law of the land, you could kiss corporations such as Fox News and the Maine Wire goodbye. Unless Republicans were in control, in which case it’s shutdown time for the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and the Daily Show. The third is whether Miley Cyrus qualifies as an “artificial entity.”

This isn’t free speech. It provides a convenient end run around the First Amendment, allowing government censors to decide who’s properly employing the Bill of Rights and who isn’t.

If you don’t think that’s a strong possibility, take a look at the second part of the proposed amendment. It says, “The spending of money to influence elections is not speech under the First Amendment, and may be reasonably regulated in order to prevent the appearance or reality of corruption, and to promote a greater balance, participation, and equality of citizens in the electoral process.”

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