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What is the Constitutional basis for making political coordination a crime? Does a candidate for office have the responsibility or authority to tell a citizen he cannot simultaneously put out campaign materials from the candidate and a grass roots organization that supports the candidate? Where in the Constitution does participating in politics require a candidate or citizen to give up 1st Amendment freedoms of assembly and association?
The 1st Amendment does not guarantee our freedoms; it only denies Congress the authority to write laws that abridge them. Only Congress can violate the 1st Amendment and the Federal Campaign Act and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act do. These laws abridge freedoms of speech, press by limiting how much money individual citizens and citizens groups can donate to their candidates and issues, and they abridge freedom of assembly by declaring it a crime for candidates, political parties and grass roots organizations to coordinate their advertising campaigns.
Americans who are for campaign reform say corporations are not people and new laws are necessary to restrict corporate influence on elections. But Commercial media are special interests and dependent on the advertising dollars of other special interests.
Democrats and Republicans agree the commercial press in America is biased and only argue over which sources offend.
Campaign laws that regulate political communications by citizens and citizens groups and exempt newspapers and broadcasters do not level the playing field or protect citizens. When grass roots can spend or donate unlimited money challengers are more likely to win.
Instead campaign laws give corporations a megaphone and muzzle grassroots communications. If freedom of religion was defined using the same logic campaign reforms use to define a free press only the church or synagogue “as an institution” would enjoy freedom of religion, not its parishioners.
Freedoms of speech, press and assembly are the unalienable rights of flesh and blood people and not corporations. Newspapers have the right to publish because they employee people and not the other way around.
Call your Congressman and Senators and demand the press exemption be extended to all citizens and citizens groups that wish to participate in our Republic!
2 USC 431 (9) (B) The term “expenditure” does not include – (i) any news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication, unless such facilities are owned or controlled by any political party, political committee, or candidate;
This law divides participation in America’s political process into two categories: The regulated majority, every living U.S. Citizen, candidate for office, political party and political organization and the unregulated commercial media.
This leaves the unrestricted institutional press in a unique position to decide what issues and candidates are important enough to discuss.
To restore equal protection under law, the language of 2 U.S.C. 431 (9) (B) (i) must be modified to restore the rights of flesh and blood citizens. I suggest the following changes: “The term expenditure does not include any news story, commentary, or editorial distributed by any citizen, citizens group, broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication.”
From 1789 when the Constitution was ratified until 1972, 183 years later, there were no significant Federal Campaign laws. We were told that the campaign finance laws—the contribution limits and the reporting requirements—would curtail or even prevent corruption. Now, with 40 years of experience, we know that they do the exact opposite.
No American citizen or citizens group should have to ask the federal government for permission to participate in politics. The following letter is the reply I received from the FEC when I requested and advisory opinion in 2004:
FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION
Washington, DC 20463
February 23, 2004
Mr. Michael Lewis
Dear Mr. Lewis:
This refers to your letter dated February 6, 2004 asking about the possible appellation of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended (“the Act”), and Commission regulations to certain activities you describe.
First, you ask whether, as a single citizen or as part of a citizens group, you may create new or maintain existing Internet web pages that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate for President 29 days before the election. Second, you ask whether you may print and distribute an unlimited number of handbills from a Presidential candidate’s website. Third, you ask whether, if you were to title these handbills “My Gazette” would they qualify as a news story commentary, or editorial by the media and therefore be exempt from the definition of a contribution under 11 CFR 100 73. Finally, you assert that if such handbills did qualify for the exemption, you would not be subject to certain requirements and limitations of the Act and Commission regulations. For example, you state that you would be able to talk to the Presidential candidate prior to printing the handbills.
The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended, authorizes the Commission to issue an advisory opinion in response to a “complete written request” from any person with respect to a specific transaction or activity by the requesting person. 2 U.S.C. 437 f(a). Such a request must pertain to the application of the Act, chapters 95 or 96 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, or any regulation prescribed by the Commission. 11 CFR 112.1(a). Requests presenting a general question of interpretation or posing a hypothetical situation do not qualify as an advisory opinion request. 2 U.S.C. 437f(a); 11 CFR 112.1(b). Under the Commission’s regulations, the Office of General Counsel is charged with reviewing requests for advisory opinions for completeness. 11 CFR 112.1(c) and (d).
After reviewing your request, further information will be needed in order to prepare an advisory opinion. Therefore, please answer the following questions:
1. We note that all of your questions are posed as hypothetical situations or general questions of interpretation. Please indicate whether you actually plan to undertake the activities you describe in your letter. If so, please indicate the total amount you plan to spend on the printing and distribution of the handbills.
Letter to Michael Lewis
2. Please describe the “citizens group” referenced in your first question. Please indicate whether such a group would include any Federal candidates or officeholders, any of their authorized committees, or any of their agents.
3. Please describe any interactions you intend to have with the Presidential candidate, his or her authorized political committee, or any of their agents prior to printing and distributing the handbills you reference in your second and third questions.
Please send your responses to this questions presented above to the Office of General Counsel. Upon receipt of your response, this Office will give further consideration to your inquiry. If you have any questions about the advisory opinion process or this letter, please contact Robert Knop at 202-694-1650.
Rosemary C. Smith
Associate General Counsel
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