Countering the Right: Ridiculous Ted Cruz Op-ed on Campaign Finance and Free Speech

Ted Cruz is one of those psychotically far right-wingers that just spews so much absurdity from his lips that it’s hard to keep up sometimes.

The Senator and apparent presidential hopeful published an op-ed in the WSJ yesterday attacking Sen. Tom Udall’s proposed amendment to the Constitution regarding the potential (not actual) regulation of money in campaigns.  To say that he took some liberties in describing the amendment and what it does or could do is an understatement.

First off, he certainly had a lot to say…with the exception of a glaring omission: any mention or addressing of the idea that money in politics and campaigns can corrupt in any way.  Or the idea that Americans actually want campaign finance to be restricted according to polls.  He points out the amendment has little chance of passing and it takes three-fourths of state legislatures to pass while omitting the reality that 79% of the public want limits on campaign donations and expenditures, according to a Gallup poll last yearA CBS News poll from last month found similar results.  Also in the Gallup poll, 50% would support government financed campaigns, yet another of Cruz’s omissions.

It should also be noted that the entire op-ed is simply a scare tactic of what could happen resulting from the amendment, not what the amendment is actually asking for or what, in reality, will happen.  It’s reminiscent of the far right’s scare tactics of what could happen if African-Americans get the right to vote, if the LGBT community is given equal rights, or if the Affordable Care Act becomes law, all of which proved their predictions were pretty much dead wrong.

Let’s address some of his contentions directly:

For centuries the Supreme Court has rightly concluded that free speech includes writing and distributing pamphlets, putting up billboards, displaying yard signs, launching a website, and running radio and television ads. Every one of those activities requires money…If you can prohibit spending money, you can prohibit virtually any form of effective speech.

He is contending that money equals speech and, on the surface, this seems reasonable.  The problem, of course, is this ignores the truth in America that he who has the most money has the loudest speech, which is clearly not what was intended by the First Amendment.  Its intention was to give equality of speech and making sure that even the lowliest of voices could still be heard, a complete impossibility in today’s world where money, not speech, is king.  In fact, you could really change his last sentence there to, “If you don’t prohibit spending money, you can prohibit virtually any form of effective speech.”  (His word “effective” should be particularly noted.)

As for the idea that the Supreme Court got it wrong in Citizens United because corporations have no First Amendment rights, that too is demonstrably false. The New York Times is a corporation. The television network NBC is a corporation. Book publisher Simon & Schuster is a corporation. Paramount Pictures is a corporation. Nobody would reasonably argue that Congress could restrict what they say—or what money they spend distributing their views, books or movies—merely because they are not individual persons. (Emphasis added)

It’s brilliant on Cruz’s part to use press and media in this description as it skews the reader’s view into thinking the government would be looking over their shoulders and telling them what to say.  He wouldn’t dare use corporations like Enron, BP, or Halliburton in that sentence since it would give people a different perspective.  The reality of the amendment is that it would not restrict what the press can say but how much a person or corporation can spend during a campaign saying it, something the public clearly wants according to the polls.  In other words, it would be an attempt to balance equality of speech.

Then Cruz produces a list of things that could be deemed constitutional if the amendment were adopted, some of which are just completely ridiculous.  He actually contends that the government “could criminalize pastors making efforts to get their parishioners to vote”, as if anyone would ever support any law that criminalized people for asking others to remember to vote.

What has to be remembered is that these laws would have to be made by Congress (ideally with the popular support of the public) and signed by the president in order for any of his absurd predictions to come true.  And if you look at his list of what ifs, you might notice that not one actually includes a scenario involving a restriction on an actual corporation, which is something the public clearly wants.

Campaign finance reform is something the public clearly wants.  Ted Cruz’s views are something the public clearly doesn’t.

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