Paul Jacob

Those sworn to represent us in government often represent themselves, instead. And sometimes these same self-actualizing politicians find that our constitutional rights merely get in the way of their political desires.

Years ago, then House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Missouri) proposed substantial re-writing of the First Amendment, arguing: “What we have is two important values in conflict: freedom of speech and our desire for healthy campaigns in a healthy democracy. You can’t have both.”

Gephardt’s constitutional gambit was designed to provide very healthy incumbents in Congress the absolute power to dictate the terms of any unhealthy campaign spending — and, therefore, speech — set against them.

Thankfully, it failed.

In The Washington Post last Sunday, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens authored an opinion piece entitled, “The five extra words that can fix the Second Amendment.” Boy, did he mean “fix.” Fix it good. Fix it so that the amendment would no longer protect your individual right to self-defense, only permitting you to bear arms when working under the direct authority of the government.

Beware politicians with scissors or permanent markers anywhere near our written constitutions.

Take Colorado State Rep. Lois Court (D-Denver). Puh-lease. On her website, Court presents “Improving the Citizen Petition Process” as a critical issue upon which she is focused, taking copious credit for legislation (HB 1326) passed in 2009, which she claims “will improve the initiative process.”

Apparently, one person’s “improvement” is another person’s machete attack. From all across the political spectrum, howls of protest met Court’s massive re-write of Colorado’s petition law.

“The cost of qualifying a measure for the ballot has increased dramatically as a result,” complained pro-marijuana activist Mason Tvert.

“Colorado lawmakers … were supposedly so concerned about the integrity of the petition process that they passed a 24-page bill clamping down on the way signatures are gathered,” wrote columnist Vincent Carroll in the Denver Post. “But they weren’t concerned enough to apply the new law to themselves.”

The law also allowed an initiative’s opponents to sue the measure’s proponents for fraud, and to win attorney fees expended in their witch-hunt, potentially bankrupting the proponents — and not incidentally making it unlikely any person would dare to sponsor an initiative measure in the Rocky Mountain State.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.