Free speech for everyone, not just certain ones

The Madison County Record Jan. 30, 2010, 11:00am

"Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech," says the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Straightforward, isn't it?

The First Amendment explicitly acknowledges and guarantees the unalienable right to free speech with which our Creator endows us. The average American can comprehend that, but certain congressmen – McCain, Feingold, et al. – clearly don't get it.

Nor does a certain President.

Nevertheless, the ability to spend one's own money in support of an issue or candidate is a fundamental component of free speech. Efforts to restrict such expenditures are a clear infringement of that right.

Five of nine Supreme Court justices get it, which is why they overturned the McCain-Feingold law recently.

Justice Anthony Kennedy explained the law's effect in his Jan. 21 majority opinion: "Speech would be suppressed in the realm where its necessity is most evident: in the public dialogue preceding a real election." The purpose of McCain-Feingold legislation, he asserted, was "to make this political speech a crime."

In his State of the Union address Wednesday night, President Barack Obama took exception to the Court's decision, arguing that it would "open the floodgates for special interests."

The irony, of course, is that our elections had been unduly influenced for decades by special interests. With the advent of alternative media – talk radio, the Internet, etc. – that stranglehold has been loosened. McCain-Feingold appeared to be designed to reestablish and perpetuate that undue influence.

What our elections need are increased public awareness and participation, not less -- as our Founding Fathers recognized, and as Justices Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, Alito, and Thomas affirmed.

There is only one guaranteed way to reduce the influence of special interests in Washington, and that is with Congressmen who adhere to the strictures of the Constitution.

If our senators and representatives honored their oaths to protect and defend the Constitution, the special interests would soon lose interest in them.

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