My piece about the growing Republican campaign to defend donors from campaign finance reform ended with a stirring speech from Sen. Ted Cruz to Southern conservative activists.
“This amendment specifically says that nothing in it will undermine the freedom of the press. So the New York Times is protected. You and me are not. If this amendment passed, Congress would have the authority to tell the NRA you cannot distribute voter guides telling people how politicians are voting on the Second Amendment. If this amendment passed, Congress would tell the Sierra Club you can’t run any ads talking about a candidate’s environmental record.
If this amendment were to pass, Congress would have the authority to tell Right to Life or Planned Parenthood, either one of them, you can’t talk about your views.
If this amendment passed, Congress would have the authority to criminalize bloggers, to criminalize movie-makers.”
Cruz was previewing a hearing on Sen. Tom Udall's amendment, which if passed (spoiler: it won't) would allow Congress and states to regulate campaign spending again, adding some caveats to the First Amendment. But others at the conferences, like Heritage's Hans von Spakovsky, suggested that the right needed to fight more aggressively and pre-empt the Democrats' arguments for campaign finance reform.
Sure enough, the day that Udall's amendment got a hearing, there was Cruz. He introduced two bills aimed at embarrassing Democrats by reframing their concerns as rank hypocrisy. First was the SuperPAC Elimination Act of 2014, to "allow unlimited direct contributions by citizens and lawful permanent residents of the United States to candidates in Federal elections." It would eliminate Super PACs by making them pointless—why give $1 million to a third party when you can give it to a candidate?
Next was the "Free All Speech Act," which dealt with the quandary at the end of Cruz's weekend speech: "any law that restricts the political speech of American citizens shall apply with equal force to media corporations, such as the New York Times, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), and the CBS Television Network." Get it? Get it? At least nobody's pretending that this is a high-minded discussion of speech rights and constitutional law.
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