Transcript of Senate - SJ0008
TRANSCRIPT OF SENATE RE SJ8
Wasserburger: Thank you Mr. Chairman. I bring you Senate Joint Resolution No. 8 and this comes to you based on a Supreme Court decision which was called Citizens United vs Federal Elections Commission. A 2010 case. And essentially what the United States Supreme Court said was that corporations are people and money is speech and so it allowed for the creation of Super PACs and large amounts of money flowing into political campaigns. And actually I just saw a newspaper article just a couple of weeks ago that essentially said that the Super PACs spent $886,000,000 in the last presidential election. And at first a lot of that money was organizations that would be called far right, but the last newspaper article I saw said organizations that are considered far left actually spent more money than the far right did. So a lot of money flowing into our political elections and I think that it has largely created an unfair advantage over the people of the United States. We certainly don’t have that kind of money to spend in political campaigns and the other part of it is you can see PAC money flowing in from other states into another state that aren’t even citizens of a community. And so this resolution I bring to you today which proposes a 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution. And I want to add to the Senators today that this is actually an amendment to the First Amendment and I think you need to take this very seriously and think about whether or not you really want to do that. So I caution you but I ask you to vote Aye. So very quickly I will walk you through the resolution. Essentially what it says is it calls on the United States Supreme Court, actually the United States Congress, to pass a 28th amendment and it sends this resolution to our National Delegation. It also goes to the President of the United States, The President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House and it goes to those folks and essentially it tries to deal with what is called Dark Money and to allow Congress to pass a Constitutional Amendment to regulate the amount of money that is spent in political campaigns. And that is the resolution very shortly, very quickly. And I hope you support it and I stand for questions.
Scott: Mr. Chairman, I have questions on this and then eventually I have some comments on it. My first question is as I read this Senate Joint resolution as it stands before us, the way it is written, it appears to me that it is not a formal request under Article 5 of the US Constitution for a Constitutional Convention on this issue. That this is merely a resolution expressing a sentiment and it doesn’t because it isn’t explicit, does not qualify as a request for a constitutional convention on this subject. Mr. Chairman, my question is is that reading of the joint resolution correct?
Wasserburger: Thank you Mr. Chairman. This resolution does not call for an article V convention. It is a resolution to Congress.
Scott: Mr. Chairman, on and against the joint resolution, Mr. Chairman, let’s think a minute what we’re talking about. We’re really talking about an attack on the First Amendment here. ‘Cause that’s what Citizens United is based on, Mr. Chairman, that’s what Citizens United is seeking to do is enforce the First Amendment. Let me just read the First Amendment. It says 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 peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Mr. Chairman, the proponent of this resolution was exactly right when he said this is a serious matter. I would submit to the Senate that the freedoms embodied in the First Amendment have been fundamental to the success, and it has been a tremendous success, of the political system of our country in preserving this as a free country. Freedom of speech; freedom of the press. That’s the issue here. Freedom of religion is not an issue here. We have always held as a country that the free expression of ideas, let them be freely expressed and fought out in the public arena, is the essential safeguard of a free nation. It’s worked very well for us. The Citizens United really enforced that and said yes it’s there and people didn’t like the result. No surprise, free country, people aren’t going to like the result. So they want to overturn it. And there are some problems with it; you have a fair amount of anonymous speech. Well, there was quite a bit of anonymous speech in the early days of the Republic People would write an article, sign it Cato so you really didn’t know who wrote it, get it printed and distribute it. As I recall the Federalist Papers were distributed that way. Nothing wrong with that. The idea is if you don’t know where it is coming from, you’ll look at the language and, Mr. Chairman, make up your own mind as to what’s appropriate and whether it’s right of not. That’s worked very well. And we have another problem the way they, as I understand it, the way the Constitutional Amendment would be put together, it wouldn’t touch the press end. It would regulate the free speech where you’re not the public press. And Mr. Chairman our public press has reverted to the early days of the Republic and it is extremely partisan and has a distinct point of view, on both sides, but a distinct point of view on public issues and election processes. So if you go amending the Constitution and overturn Citizen’s United, what you’re going to do is say that, okay it’s going to be all right for an extremely partisan, and it’s partisan on both sides, corporation, business, to influence the election all they want, and they do, both the television and the print media, but it’s not all right for private citizens and private citizens organized as a corporation, to effectively counter that. And, Mr. Chairman, I think that’s a mistake. Mr. Chairman, the First Amendment is a radical expression of the doctrine of free speech and the right of all of us and our institutions and our organizations to engage in vigorous free speech. It’s worked well for us. Mr. Chairman, I think, frankly I think Citizens United was rightly decided. We haven’t worked out all the kinks on it yet. It’ll take us awhile. But I think it would be a mistake to overturn it and start allowing restrictions on the free speech. So I suggest to defeat this resolution.
Kinskey: Thank you Mr. Chairman. I have a great many friends who are in favor of this resolution. And I spoke to a pack/group of them in December before we came down. And I told them quite frankly that I’m in favor of Citizens United and I’m against the resolution. If you really understand Citizens United, you’ll understand that there was no other decision the Supreme Court could or should of made. And if they’d made a different decision, it would’ve had frightening consequences for our freedoms, especially the First Amendment. I agree with my colleague from Bate’s Creek, politics has always been sharp elbows in addition to the fact that the Federalist Papers were published under a pen name, Publius, anonymously. If you read a recent biography of George Washington you’ll have a decidedly different view of the founders and of the great Thomas Jefferson, who as Washington’s Treasury Secretary, put a political ally on the payroll to run a newspaper on the side attacking George Washington anonymously the entire time that Jefferson was working for him. So sharp elbows has always been a part of the American political scene. So let’s just take a look at Citizens United. And if you take a look, if any of you have ever taken a look at federal campaign regulations, the first thing you do before you run for any federal office is you get a stack of money to hire a lawyer because there are very complex regulations and you can get in trouble very easily. So during the 2004 presidential campaign, this is the foundation of Citizen’s United, there was a 501C34 organization that filed a complaint with the FEC, charging that a movie then made, Fahrenheit 911, which was very critical of the then President Bush, and made clear that President Bush should not be reelected. And Citizens United filed a complaint with the FEC saying this is electioneering as prohibited by your own code. This film producer is a corporation, and they’re advocating for the defeat or election of a candidate and you need to fine them. By the way, under the law if you violate it, not only are there criminal fines, but you can potentially go to prison. So we’re talking about prison for speech. Well the FEC ultimately dismissed the complaint and found that this filmmaker was a bona fide commercial activity. So that’s the dividing line. Corporations can speak spend money if it’s a bona fide commercial activity. So this group, Citizens United, thought well by golly we’ll just make a movie ourselves. So they made a movie about Hillary Clinton and they were charged with violating the law and it was found that they were not a bona fide commercial film maker. So they fell back and raised some money and made several films that didn’t really go anywhere. And then yet another film about a national political candidate, and then again they were not a bona fide commercial filmmaker. So there you go. If you’re in Hollywood and you have a corporation and you’re a bona fide commercial filmmaker, you have a right to spend corporate dollars for speech. And if you’re a corporation that is not, you do not have that right. So when the complaint, when the entire case ended up in front of the US Supreme Court, in the oral argument, it’s interesting because in those arguments the US Deputy Solicitor General argued under precedent that the government would have the power to ban books if those books contained even one sentence expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate and were published or distributed by a corporation or a labor union. Now, except if it’s a book publishing corporation, of course, not your corporation or mine. So further the Justices pressed him further, and he argued that the government could even ban the digital distribution of political books or prevent a union from hiring an author to write a political book. That is the logic; that is what was at issue in Citizens United. The majority wrote in upholding the Citizens United case, if the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens or associations of citizens for engaging in political speech. The Justices also noted that the First Amendment does not distinguish between bona fide media corporations and any other company or association. So when you get into the facts of the case, I just don’t know that any of us would have decided any different. Are you going to send somebody to prison for making a film critical of a national political candidate. Clearly that would be a tremendous threat to our democracy. But let’s say that they sustain the complaint. Now you can just see the FEC is going to have to start distinguishing between bona fide media companies and those that are not. Well how do you do that? Well I suppose you start issuing licenses. You’re either a licensed newspaper or you’re not. You’re either a licensed book publisher by the government, or you’re not. You’re either a licensed filmmaker or you’re not. And you’re in front of the FEC trying to argue that you in fact are bona fide. And that prospect of that sort of regulatory framework around a free press is absolutely a frightening prospect. So I appreciate your time and attention and I would urge a negative vote on the resolution. Thank you Mr. Chairman.
Case: Thank you very much Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, this ones scares me a lot. I can’t even imagine how we could say anywhere in the Constitution with the 28th Amendment that not withstanding the First Amendment to the Constitution this occurs. We’re going to regulate the ability of corporations or whatever nonpersons are, ‘cause there is just so many fallacies here, but the very fact that we’re going to, we’re going to mess with the very fundamental amendment. Now there are all sorts of political speech that goes on all the time. At this Superbowl a very large brewing company is going to have a very political commercial that is going to involve some very large horses riding and showing a commitment by that company that is no longer American owned, to win power in the United States. I view that as a very political statement, in fact at the end that pans out they show the wind turbines turning and there’s a very well known trademark symbol of this formerly American owned beer company. I think that is so political. I think that is political speech. It’s by a corporation and I’m so against it. But I’m not against their right to have that speech. So how are we going to draw the line? Are we just going to talk about campaign related speeches? That’s a political speech as much as anything. I don’t see how possibly this could be implemented. And Mr. President, if we think that this is going to get rid of anonymous mailers and big money in campaigns, it will not. PACs are not regulated. And you’ll just have to get donations from PACs in different ways. And in Wyoming we don’t even allow corporations to contribute to candidates. They can do 3rd party things through PACs or what have you. But it won’t stop the money. I don’t, it will just happen a different way. So what I come down to it is, whether I form a PAC, whether my business partner and which we’re not a corporation, we have free speech. Yet if we form a corporation, that’s not free speech. I just can’t even imagine that. I hope we defeat this measure. I think there’s just a tremendous amount of misconception about what it would do or how it’s beneficial.