A Friday story in Mediaite reports that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas imparted a stern warning at a speech before the Family Research Council. Senate Democrats, he said, are attempting to repeal the First Amendment. He is referring to a Constitutional amendment being offered by Democrats with 41 cosponsors that would give Congress unlimited power to regulate all campaign contributions and spending in federal elections. It would give states the same power to regulate campaign finance in state elections.
The attempted amendment and Cruz’s response is part of an old argument over money and its influence in political campaigns. A Supreme Court ruling in the cases of McCutcheon and Citizens United that removed many but not all restrictions on campaign contributions. The Democrats are depicting their effort as a way to combat the influence of big money in politics.
The text of the amendment reads thus:
“Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to federal elections, including setting limits on (1) the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, federal office, and (2) the amount of funds that may be spent by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.”
Cruz’s analysis of what he sees as the pernicious effects of the amendment stems from the reality that political speech does not just consist of ranting on street corners and public parks. Getting a political message across, whether it is in support of a candidate or of a cause, takes money. Money buys ad time, Internet websites, and other means of campaigning. In effect regulating political money means regulating speech.
The proposed amendment has little if any chance of actually passing. However it seems to be a vehicle by Democrats to campaign against big money political activists such as the Koch brothers, who bankroll conservative causes and candidates, However Democrats have their own billionaire supporters, such as George Soros and Tom Steyer, the latter of whom is pledging tens of millions of dollars to support candidates who support efforts to combat climate change.