Paul Jacob

The First Amendment, I think I’ll keep it.

Not so for 44 sitting U.S. Senators — all Democrats. They’re proposing Senate Joint Resolution 19, which would amend the U.S. Constitution by scratching out a sorta important part of the Bill of Rights.

Senate Joint Resolution 19 would repeal the First Amendment.

Well, not all of it, actually: just our right to speak out politically, to engage in political action and campaign for or against those in power.

The new amendment would remove all protections against Congress regulating our speech, at least insofar as we have to spend even a plug nickel for a megaphone in what they deem to be their campaigns. Yes, the idea is to reward incumbent politicians — the same dudes earning the approval of less than one in ten Americans and suffering from a screaming conflict of interest — with the carte blanche power to pass any rules and regulations and limits they so desire on both the raising and spending of money by their challengers and organizations opposed to their policies.

SJR 19’s lead sponsor, Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) states that his goal in re-writing our rights is to “give the power back to the Congress.”

But, wait, that would constitute amending reality as well. Congress never had any such power. The instructions in the Constitution’s First Amendment were written quite soberly, and remain crystal clear: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peacefully assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

SJR 19 would simply remove those words “freedom of speech” above from our highest law and allow Congress to make any speech-regulating law they damn well feel like.

The guts of the new amendment reads: “Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to Federal elections, including through setting limits on — the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, Federal office; and the amount of funds that may be spent by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.”

So, were Congress to pass a law prohibiting campaigns from spending more than $10,000 on a run for office — thereby denying challengers the ability to spend enough to compete with the superior name recognition of longtime incumbents — it would then be constitutional, instead of, as now, unconstitutional.

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.