How Much “Political Speech” Can You Buy?

The ruling by the Supreme Court in the case McCutcheon v. FEC could have been predicted.  This is the same court that gave us the ruling on Citizens United v. FEC (with the exception of Elana Kagan replacing John Paul Stevens).  Where Citizens United determined that corporations and unions are people and that money is equal to the freedom of speech, the McCutcheon verdict goes a step further by striking down maximum limits on campaign contributions.

The McCutcheon verdict actually overturns a 1976 ruling in the case Buckley v. Valeo in which the court ruled that independent spending is political speech and is protected by the First Amendment; however, contributions could be capped in order to prevent corruption.  The campaign limits were put in place by Congress following the Watergate scandal to discourage large contributors from buying votes and to restore faith into the system.

supreme-court

So what are the specifics of this latest ruling?  The McCutcheon ruling only concerns contributions from individuals.  There are still laws in place that affect corporations and unions in this particular instance.  And it does not undermine limits on individual contributions to candidates for President and Congress which is currently set at $2600 per election.

The ruling states that individuals have the right to give the legal maximum amount to candidates for Congress and president (as well as to the parties and PACs) without worrying that they will come up against the limit placed on all contributions which is placed at $123,200 for the 2014 election.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, stated, “There is no right in our democracy more basic than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.”  Justice Clarence Thomas, in agreement with the Chief Justice, wrote his own opinion stating that he would have rather had wiped out all contribution limits.

So apparently our republic is open to those who have deeper pockets.  This is nothing that is really new.  In the later decades of the 1800s (after the Civil War), politicians were controlled by Tammany Hall in New York City.  This would even continue into the beginning of the 20th century when the wealthy industrialists of the day had more clout than even the President.

Since the 2010 ruling in Citizens United, we have seen what an influx of money can do in an election.  The money spent in the 2012 election cycle was by far greater than any election to date, and it is very likely that the 2016 election will break that record as even more campaign finance limits have now been struck down.

It is technically illegal to bribe an elected official, and it is illegal for for an elected official to accept that bribe.  However, with these latest rulings (Citizens United and McCutcheon), is this any different than just legal bribery?  The more money you have, the more “political speech” you possess… or at least that is what they want you to think.  In reality, the more money you have and can contribute, the more you can buy that vote or influence that party platform.

Justice Breyer wrote in his dissent that “If the court in Citizens United opened a door, today’s decision may well open a floodgate.”  Considering the aftermath of Citizens United, he is probably correct.  Our elections will no longer service the people as a whole, just those with the deepest pockets.  And it will continue to disenfranchise more voters and drive them away from the polls.

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Don’t Say It

It’s my second entry in less than a week to rant on my home state of Missouri.  Once again, I find it absolutely incredible that our legislators would waste time with this particular issue when they complain that we aren’t creating jobs quickly enough.  Let’s put two and two together here.  This time, though, this issue is more near and dear to my heart, so I cannot afford to sit back quietly.  Not this time.  Something must be said… especially for those that have no voice.

The legislation in question is House Bill 2051 (HB2051… otherwise known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill) and is sponsored by Representative Steve Cookson, with the backing of both the current Speaker, Steven Tilley and the Speaker-Elect, Tim Jones.  HB2051 has been referred to the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, and isn’t on the calendar for the committee as of yet.  But that doesn’t make it any less dangerous.  The legislation has to deal with the LGBT community… and even more importantly, it has to do with LGBT youth.  And at a time when LGBT suicides seem to be running rampant, this particular legislation does not help.  The text of it is short, but it reaches far beyond.

170.370. Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, no instruction, material, or extracurricular activity sponsored by a public school that discusses sexual orientation other than in scientific instruction concerning human reproduction shall be provided in any public school.

My first question is how is this even legal?  How is it not a violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution?  The government does not have the right to tell us what we can and cannot talk about, and it can’t make up laws that do.  What’s next?  Are they going to tell us what we can think about?  I could see a private school doing something of this nature, but for the public schools that are supported by taxpayer dollars… again, this cannot be even close to legal.  This is another case of the Republicans in the state of Missouri trying to demote part of its population to second-class citizens because they’re afraid of the “homosexual agenda.”  But this is a bunch of BS.  Legislation such as HB2051 is nothing short than a “hear no evil, see no evil” approach.  The Republicans in the state legislature believe that if the youth can’t talk about their homosexual tendencies/feelings, then they won’t give in to them.  They won’t be encouraged.  Unfortunately, the majority of the people that support legislation like this don’t know what they are talking about.  Someone either is or isn’t gay.  It doesn’t matter if it’s encouraged or not.  It is already something that is inside them.  No amount of legislation by the government (any government) will make that go away.  All it will end up doing is isolating a vital, productive, and creative part of our overall community.

Our youth will be the most adversely affected by such legislation as it is targeting them and the schools they go to.  Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs will be prohibited, and faculty and administrators will be forbidden to talk about anything dealing with sexual orientation… even if a student needs someone to talk to about it or even if a student is reporting a case of bullying.  Growing up, I was often teased throughout school.  Not for being gay but for basically being more of the nerdy type.  I know how it can make one feel.  Sometimes, I young person just needs someone to sit and listen… and to care.  And as we grow into young adults and starts dealing with more “adult-type” of situations, we need those people more and more.  We are often very careful about who we confide in, as well.  We want to make sure that it is a person that we can lean on.  For some, that particular person is a teacher.  And if this bill is put into law, that teacher won’t even be able to help even if he/she is the only person that kid or young adult feels like he/she can talk to.  It is just shameful.  And it hurts me to my core that our young people are made to feel more alone and more isolated at a time in their lives when they should be embraced and loved.

Missouri is not the first state to attempt a “Don’t Say Gay” bill.  The state of Tennessee voted several times last year on a similar bill, but it drew national ridicule that even came from the state’s Republican Governor.  The Tennessee bill eventually failed… though the state is trying again this year with an identical bill.  And now the state of Missouri is trying.  Apparently, the dumbasses who thought this thing up didn’t think this through very much.  Are they trying to prove that they are more conservative that the Republicans in Tennessee?  Is there a special prize at the end for them?  Well maybe on that last one… re-election by the same crazy voters that allow them to do dumbass things like this.  Again, it’s these same Republican legislators that say that we have fallen behind in creating jobs… that new businesses and new people are not moving to the state.  Yet, they can’t seem to make the correlation that it’s stupid stuff like this that makes Missouri a less-desirable place to live.  People tend not to want to live in a state that is trying to revert itself back to the 1850s (or even the 1950s).  This is the 21st century, and again, the people in Jefferson City need to pull their head out of their asses long enough to actually see the real world.  I know it might seem scary to them at first, but it will subside.

The consequences of such a bill needs to be thought through.  We’re isolating our youth.  We are isolating a part of our community.  Is that really a wise thing to do.  Regardless of our religious beliefs (and yes, I am a Christian), no one deserves treatment like this.  The legislators in Missouri need to realize this first and foremost.  They do not have the right to tell us how to live our lives, nor do they have the right to tell us what type of people we should be.  We are all different and unique, and we should all be embraced.  Even though I have been quite harsh on the legislators in this entry, I am trying my best to go after their actions. Afterall, hate only begets more hate.  I don’t mind when people think differently, it’s just when they act upon those thoughts and try to make others feel inferior… or in this case, feel like second-class citizens and that something is wrong with them.  The LGBT youth are simply amazing, and I think quite brave for all they have to endure at such a young age.  The bullying must stop… not only within our schools but from our government, too.  And if want a state that attracts businesses and new people, then we must stop writing BS legislation like this that makes people believe that Missouri is an ass-backwards state.  Let us move forward.  Let us work together to build a state that embraces everyone instead of isolating.  And let us work together to teach our youth to be good citizens and to be proud of who they are.  I think the youth of our state could teach some of the Missouri legislators a few lessons.  Afterall, to love thy neighbor means to embrace and accept them.

“Homosexuality, is regarded as shameful by barbarians and by those who live under despotic governments just as philosophy is regarded as shameful by them, because it is apparently not in the interest of such rulers to have great ideas engendered in their subjects, or powerful friendships or passionate love-all of which homosexuality is particularly apt to produce.”  Plato~

INFORMATION:
If you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide, please call 1-866-4-U-Trevor (1-866-488-7386).  You can also click on the link for The Trevor Project.

For those living in the state of Missouri wishing to contact their Representative regarding HB2051, please click Here for the directory.

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From The Shadows

Freedom of Speech

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. First Amendment~

Freedom of Speech came into the spotlight once again last week as the Supreme Court handed down a verdict in the case of Snyder v. Phelps.  The Westboro Baptist Church, led by Mr. Phelps, is known for protesting anything that stands for LGBT-equality but also for protesting the military funerals of our fallen soldiers.  Communities and states have rallied over the years to enact laws that give those from the WBC a time and place where they can protest without interrupting the services of our fallen soldiers.  But that still hasn’t stopped various lawsuits from going forth against the WBC to try to get them to stop altogether.  But the Supreme Court has ruled (8-1) that the protests are protected by the First Amendment… the Freedom of Speech.

I would tend to think that there are not too many people that like what the people of the Westboro Baptist Church do.  In fact, the congregation is mostly made up of the Phelps family… and probably some confused, narrow-minded people.  At least locally, media coverage of them protesting a military funeral is close to nothing at all… which is probably as it should be since they probably want all the media attention.  And the local LGBT-community is not afraid to stand up to their protests and counter-protest their hate speech with that of love.

When the verdict was announced, most people I know where outraged.  But where others were giving in to their hatred for the WBC, my mind started to think.  Sure, my opinion of the WBC and those that believe in what it preaches is the lowest of all lows, but do they have the right to freedom of speech with the message they are sending out to people?  I surely thought so.  Freedom of Speech is Freedom of Speech, whether we agree with it or not.  Right?  Not so fast.  Upon having a conversation with my friend Deborah that evening, who has studied constitutional law, there is more to this.  And this entire issue is not as cut and dry as one might think.

In the case of Chaplinsky vs. New Hampshire, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment does not protect against what it called “insulting or ‘fighting words’ — those which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.” (315 US 568, 572 [1942]) Chaplinsky was a Jehovah’s Witness who had been arrested by a New Hampshire town marshall after he tried to prevent Chaplinksy from preaching… after which Chaplinsky spouted off by saying “You are a God-damned racketeer” and “a damned fascist.”

If you had noticed earlier, I said that the verdict was 8-1 in favor of the WBC.  It was Justice Samuel Alito who dissented… and it was on this very clause that he did so.  Justice Alito said that the WBC was not protected under freedom of speech because he likened the protests to fighting words and of a personal character.  The other 8-justices disagreed ruling that the attacks were protected because the attacks were public and not personal and that there are local laws that can shield those attending the funerals from the protesters.

A point I want to make with this last piece of the majority’s reasoning.   Just because local laws are in place that can tell the protesters where and when they are allowed to protest, that shouldn’t be used as part of the ruling.  This wasn’t so much a case that was challenging the local laws, this was a case that challenged whether the WBC had the right to protest and say the things it was saying.

Other than the “fighting words” judgment from the Court in 1942, I also can’t help but think now of defamation.  This was something that was taught to me in my Media Law class back in college, and to which my college professor would probably be proud that I remember this.  Defamation requires an allegation of a fact that is actually false and harms the reputation of an individual.  This can come in two forms… spoken slander or written libel.  Could it be considered defamation when the protesters of the WBC hold up signs with the deceased’s name on it and saying that that particular person in in Hell.  Technically, they don’t really know where we go when we die and where this particular soldier’s soul is, and they are harming the reputation of this fallen soldier.  Defamation is also why you can’t claim freedom of speech when you put up a huge billboard along the interstate claiming your ex-boyfriend/girlfriend is a child molester or a rapist when they are not.  So there are limitations as to what you can say or write about people.

So, did the Supreme Court get this decision right?  My initial reaction was yes, but after further reviewing case jurisprudence, I think my answer does switch to the negative.  It would appear that I agree with Justice Alito that the attacks are very personal in nature.  And I might also add that some of what is being said and written borderline on defamation of character.  But what do you think?  Are the protests of the WBC during military funerals protected under the First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech or do you think later Supreme Court decisions restrict them?

Freedom of Speech….Difference of Opinion

This entry mostly comes from a local story that was in our news in the past couple of days, but I have a few things to say about this.  So you can read the actual news article if you wish.  It might help you understand what I’m going on about.

http://www.ksdk.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=138895

First of all, Archbishop Burke needs to take that huge rod out of his ass.  Mostly, no one really cares what he thinks.  This whole thing started when St. Louis University (SLU) basketball coach Rick Majerus attended a rally for Democratic Presidential contender Hillary Clinton and said in an interview that he was pro-choice and is an advocate for stem-cell research.  Now…SLU is a private school…and though located in the St. Louis Archdiocese, it is NOT operated by the archdioces.  Instead it is operated by the Jesuits….a world-wide order of priests within the Catholic Church.

The archbishop wants the university to punish the coach because the coach’s views don’t coincide with the views of the Catholic Church.  Now wait a minute and correct me here if I’m wrong.  But I thought we had the right to form our own opinions and express them as we see fit.  Of course….the right wing doesn’t see this.  You have to agree with them, and if you don’t, then you should be punished because they are always right and if you disagree with us, then you are wrong.

WRONG!!

And this actually got into a heated debated between my mother and myself.  My mother thinks he should be fired….and thinks the bishop will have him fired. I say that if he is, he should bring about a lawsuit.  Even though it’s a private organization, he still has the right to form his own opinions and express them to the public as a private citizen just as much as any student at that university or any of us in the public does.  Now, if he had done during a basketball game or at a press conference after a game or some other school function, then I would say that is out of line since at that point, you are representing that school.  But what you do outside of work is your own and you are allowed to express your views however you want.  It’s no different than a studen putting a video up on YouTube saying that he’s pro-choice and for stem-cell research….or no different than me posting on my blog (though I don’t go to the university).  Students are representatives of the school as well. But their time away from school is just like the coach’s…private.  And he can do with it as he wishes…which does include going to a Hillary Clinton rally if that is his candidate of choice.

To work someplace, you don’t have to agree with them on their stance on things.  Before Majerus came to SLU, he taught in Utah… Mormons. And it’s doubtful he agreed with all of their beliefs, to.  And look at me for a minute…one of the companies I work for is probably the second-most conservative media company around (second to FOX News)….and yet, I refuse to agree with the company on many issues since they follow the conservative wing  blindly.  And they would probably have a field day with my views that I express on here countless times. However, being that I write my political blogs on my own time away from work, they don’t get any say in the matter.  So why should this be any different??

It technically shouldn’t.  The archbishop just wants to raise a big fuss about it….simply put, the archbishop just likes to raise a big fuss about anything that goes against the Catholic Church.  The problem for him is….no one is really listening anymore because he’s just flapping at the mouth.  No one in the media even picked up the story really (except for the initial interview where the coach’s views were expressed) until after the archbishop raised a big fuss about it.  So had he kept his mouth shut, the majority of the public wouldn’t have even known about it.  And even though we do now….we honestly don’t care.

I know I don’t honestly care.  I mean, he’s allowed to express his views any way he so chooses….even if he doesn’t agree with me or the Church or anything.  The First Amendment does guarantee us the freedom of speech.  And sorry…but once off school property and when not attending a school function, he’s allowed to express himself in any way he so chooses.  If the archbishop and the Church don’t agree with it, then that’s just tough.

The archbishop wants him to be punished…but as the article said…SLU is not operated by the archdiocese.  So WTF??  The archbishop technically has no control over the matter.  So he just needs to shut up and get that huge rod out of his fat ass. Who the hell cares if he doesn’t agree with you or the Church??  Your views aren’t necessarily right just because you think they are.  Why don’t you go try to cure hunger and poverty in Africa??  It’s a much more worthy use of your time than attacking someone for his views.

And, as I said earlier….if they try to fire Majerus because of his views and that he expressed them in public, he should bring about a massive lawsuit…since they are violating his First Amendment privileges.  And kudos to SLU’s initial statement saying that the coach’s statement were his own.  That they were….and that he did have the right to state.

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