Sep 10, 2014 - 11:00am

Free Speech for All

In a move that’s pure politics, the Senate is barreling ahead on a proposed constitutional amendment that would eliminate many of the free speech protections guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

The long-shot proposal, being pushed this week by Senate Democrats, would give Congress and the states the power to prohibit election spending by corporations, which was permitted by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Ahead of the Senate’s procedural vote on the so-called “Democracy for All” amendment, the U.S. Chamber sent a Key Vote Alert as well as a coalition letter to members of Congress.

Kudos to the 173 businesses and organizations for supporting the First Amendment:

First, the resolution goes against the First Amendment’s bedrock principle that the government should not restrict expression based on its message, ideas, or content. By permitting speech regulation that distinguishes between individuals and organizations, the resolution would allow the government to discriminate against speech based on the speaker’s viewpoint – an area of government speech regulation that is plainly forbidden by the First Amendment. S.J. Res. 19 would eliminate this First Amendment protection and permit the government to target certain organizations based solely on their political viewpoint.

Second, S.J. Res. 19 would dramatically increase the scope of federal and state speech regulation. Under S.J. Res. 19, the federal government would have the authority to prohibit or otherwise limit speech relating to state elections. Likewise, the resolution would allow states to prohibit or limit speech relating to federal elections. This cross-regulation would expand the number of possible speech regulators, significantly increasing the likelihood that traditional First Amendment protections would be restricted. The resolution also would allow the federal government to abrogate state election regulation – an area historically reserved to state authority.

Under S.J. Res. 19, even if a state wanted to preserve First Amendment protections for its citizens, the federal government could intercede and restrict state election-related speech.

Third, S.J. Res. 19 would significantly curtail the constitutionally protected right of freedom of association. It has long been understood that the First Amendment goes beyond political speech and expression to also protect the freedom to associate with others to advance common beliefs and ideas. The constitutional right of association recognizes that group association enhances effective advocacy, particularly on controversial topics. S.J. Res. 19 would allow Congress, or a state, to override this constitutional principle and prohibit individuals from associating together to promote their beliefs in the political sphere.

For these reasons, we urge you to oppose S.J. Res. 19.

Read our previous posts on S.J. Res 19 here, here and here.

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About the Author

About the Author

Sheryll Poe is a former senior writer at the U.S. Chamber, who covered public policies affecting businesses including the three "T's" - transportation, trade and taxes.