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Should It Be against Law to Criticize Harry Reid?

May 27, 2014 in Economics

By Trevor Burrus

Trevor Burrus

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has launched a campaign against the Koch brothers from the floor of the Senate. He has mentioned them approximately 140 times, and has gone so far as to call them un-American. Now Reid has gone from rhetoric to action by endorsing Sen. Tom Udall’s (D-N.M.) proposed amendment that would give Congress a free hand to regulate and limit political spending.

Giving elected representatives the power to regulate the process by which they get elected is a terrifying proposition. A cursory look at history shows why.

Giving elected representatives the power to regulate the process by which they get elected is a terrifying proposition.”

Wars on political speech are a predictable and time-honored tradition in Washington, D.C. From the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which made it illegal to say anything that would “bring members of the government into contempt or disrepute,” to the Sedition Act of 1918, which prohibited “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the U.S. government, to modern campaign finance laws, politicians have long tried to silence critics in the name of the “public interest.”

Standing between the base motives of politicians and total censorship of dissent, however, was the First Amendment. Now, Udall’s amendment hopes to give politicians the power to brush aside that inconvenient little freedom.

When the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act was first debated, senators chomped at the bit for the opportunity to squelch their critics. Apparently, anyone who criticizes a sitting senator is a public nuisance who must be stopped.

Former Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) complained that “negative attack ads” caused a candidate’s “20-percent lead to keep going down” and, although “what they are saying is totally inaccurate, you have no way to refute it.”

The obvious solution is censorship, because Jim Jeffords’s “20-percent lead” is more important than free speech.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) complained that political ads just “drive up an individual candidate’s negative polling numbers and increase public cynicism for public service in general.”

McCain’s polling numbers and positive views of “public service” are certainly more important than free speech.

McCain also told his fellow senators that political ads just “demeaned and degraded all of us because people don’t think very much of you when they see the kinds of attack ads that are broadcast on a routine basis.” Those ads “are negative to the degree where all of our approval ratings sink to an …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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