Serious efforts are speeding down the political pike from leftists, to curtail the free political speech of businesses. They are trying to pass laws and regulations that limit or eliminate a business’ or corporation’s ability to contribute to political candidates or PACs that support candidates. The left frets and whines about evil businesses trying to “buy” elections, yet it’s OK with them if unions do the buying. Huh? Say again?
Let’s start with what the U.S. Constitution and the highest court in the land say about this issue. Previously, these pages pointed out that everyone knows our Constitution prohibits government from curtailing freedom of speech. Thirty-five years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that restrictions on political spending were abridgements to political speech. The justices reasoned that if government restricted the amount of money a person or a group could “spend on political communication during a campaign,” it reduced the quantity of expression. The court said government should not restrict “the number of issues discussed, the depth of their exploration, and the size of the audience reached.” Further, the court didn’t say “money equals speech;” it held that “communicating ideas in today’s mass society requires the expenditure of money.” As the Cato Institute notes, this means that political speech necessitates spending money. Hence, when government restricts money, it’s the same as restricting speech.
But Congress passed a law in 2002 to restrict the financing of political campaigns. The Supreme Court rightly overturned that law two years ago, saying it violated the First Amendment free speech rights of corporations and unions. The court held that individuals have the right to band themselves together to speak. Now the left is back, trying to prohibit (only) businesses from spending money in federal, state and local elections.
Well, here’s one businessman’s position: Business makes political contributions that pay for candidates to get their message out, or to pay for political advertising. The voter who sees or hears those messages determines whether or not they are persuasive. It is the voter who chooses who gets elected, and this country’s long history of protecting political speech’s ability to influence those voters is a tried and true democratic process. Florida voters don’t need to be “protected” from business’ money. They are fully able to make independent choices, and it’s insulting to suggest they need to be “protected.”
This business of “protection” is a liberal political invention to empower leftist politicians to create government programs that serve their own interests. When “protection” is deemed needed, then, of course, government must be expanded and empowered to provide that protection.
At the very least, businesses need the ability to defend themselves and get their messages out. But leftists want businesses to come to the political fight with no weapon and no shield, only our wallets extended as vassals, from which the left can confiscate tax payments.
Business owners and managers don’t expect any boo-hooing from the public over the plight of businesses to make our voices heard. But we’re not going to accept an unlevel political playing field where contribution limits will restrict our speech.
The attempt to stifle the voice of business is nothing more than a bald-faced end run around the U.S. Constitution by the left to eliminate the voice of its competition. And the real shame of it is that American businesses are forced to spend a portion of what we earn in order to protect the rest of it.
I, and tens of millions of small businessmen like me, have a right to defend what we’ve built. And Mr. Obama, none of your bloated government agencies or federal programs built it. The only role government played in my businesses was to make it difficult for them to succeed. And when you and your leftist minions try to stifle our free speech, don’t expect us to roll over and hold our tongues. Expect a fight, because that’s what you‘re going to get.