The Corner

Reid to News Media: ‘Your Papers, Please’

Regarding our editorial on Harry Reid’s plot to repeal the First Amendment and end free speech in the United States, there’s a slightly subtle point that wasn’t made. The Democrats insist that this is all about keeping corporations from having too much influence on political discourse — a problematic enough assertion in and of itself; who are they to decide when somebody has too much free speech? — but they fail to deal with the fact that, under the law, there is no constitutional difference between Chevron and the New York Times Company — a corporation is a corporation is a corporation. Nonprofit corporations will fall under the same shadow. The proposed amendment would allow Congress to forbid not only financial contributions to political causes but also “in kind” contributions, which could mean anything from volunteer door-knocking to sympathetic television coverage to the endorsement of the Washington Post.

The Democrats claim that once they have hobbled the First Amendment they will use their newfound powers only to restrict the wrong sort of corporation, not to suppress media companies. But that’s a dodge, too. As noted, current law makes no distinction between media corporations and other kinds of corporations; creating that distinction, which Congress would of course have to do if it wants to apply one set of rules to General Electric and another to Disney, would be indistinguishable from federal licensing of news outlets, i.e. the repeal of fundamental, centuries-long First Amendment protections. If you have to have government permission to engage in free speech, you don’t have free speech.

The Democratic talk about corporations is a bit of a dodge, generally, in that the amendment explicitly empowers Congress to suppress the free speech of “natural persons” — i.e., individuals — along with corporations.

This outright assault on the Bill of Rights is the work of Harry Reid of Nevada and Tom Udall of New Mexico. If the people of those states had any self-respect, both men would be turned out of office. But then, if the people of those states had any self-respect, neither would have been a senator in the first place. 

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