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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Last week, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) made a religious-right audience gasp in horror when he announced that Senate Democrats were on a warpath “to repeal the First Amendment.” Addressing a terrified audience of conservative pastors in Washington, D.C., Cruz assured his listeners that he “was not making this up,” and that Democrats were really and truly attempting to do away with such honored rights as freedom of speech, the press, and religion.

In the words of Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler: Really, Senator Cruz? Really?

Cruz’s bold claim was inspired by Senator Tom Udall’s (D-NM) proposed Constitutional amendment that would grant the federal government the “power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in kind equivalents for federal political campaigns.” Nowhere in the amendment does Udall suggest repealing the First Amendment.

According to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), however, “In our society, spending is speech.” As such, it seems that Cruz has conflated the Democrats’ attempts to curb Big Money’s influence on policy and politics with an attack on the wealthy’s First Amendment rights.

In reality, Udall’s amendment is a response to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling and the more recent McCutcheon, which have eroded limitations on campaign donations. Recent studies by professors at Yale and the University of California, Berkeley have suggested that individuals with the means to make significant financial contributions have better access to politicians, lending statistical evidence to support the widely held assumption that “financial resources translate into political power.” Consequently, eliminating contribution ceilings gives even greater influence to the wealthy donor class whose money serves as a megaphone in the political arena. Udall’s amendment — which is strongly supported by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has said he will force “multiple votes” on the issue — attempts to restore some equality in political representation.

Of course, this is not how Cruz views the amendment. Rather, the ultra-conservative senator told onlookers at the Family Research Council event that the amendment would give Congress the ability “to muzzle each and every one of you.” Ostensibly, when Cruz says that the government will “muzzle” pastors, he is speaking of the amendment’s aim of capping campaign contributions. But religious institutions — specifically churches, synagogues, mosques, and/or temples — are considered tax-exempt non-profits by the IRS, which means that they are prohibited from participating in, contributing to, or interfering with any political campaigns. In fact, the IRS expressly states:

Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity.

Therefore, if Udall’s amendment were to pass, Cruz’s audience would be unaffected, because they are and would remain unable to financially influence public official elections.

Moreover, Cruz’s claims that the amendment grants Congress “unlimited authority” to “regulate political speech” is equally untrue. The senator seems to believe that Congress would receive unprecedented power to check campaign donations. But what he has conveniently forgotten is that before Citizens United, there were ceilings in place to ensure that no individual (or individuals) could give unlimited cash to campaigns or candidates. So really, the amendment would simply return the campaign contribution landscape to its pre-2010 state, not create a new era of total government control.

For Cruz, however, Congress’ audacity to suggest that more money should not mean more influence places the United States in “perilous, perilous times.” The senator continued his histrionic rant by saying, “elected officials have decided they don’t like it when the citizenry has the temerity to criticize what they’ve done.” Because for Cruz, criticism comes in the form of a check.

And while the amendment explicitly says nothing “shall abridge the freedom of the press,” Cruz takes issue with the fact that the amendment does not proceed to list every other aspect that will be unaffected, including freedom of speech and religious liberty. By this logic, because the amendment does not mention the guarantee of kittens’ safety, we may also assume that upon its passage, all kittens will be in immediate danger.

Luckily for Cruz, the likelihood of passage is slim — only 27 amendments have been ratified in the course of American history, as the process is long and difficult. However, regardless of the amendment’s chances, the probability that Ted Cruz has officially lost his mind — judging by these kinds of absurd claims — seems higher every day.

Photo: jbouie via Flickr

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  • FredAppell

    First off, when someone says “I’m not making this stuff up”, that usually means they are making stuff up. Cruz and McConnell wanna believe that money is “free speech” so I guess that First Amendment is only good as long someone has money and if you don’t have money (which is pretty much the majority of us), too bad, STFU!

    • Mark Forsyth

      How true.The guilty flee where none pursue. See the glory of the royal scam.Coming soon to a government office near you.

      • FredAppell

        We’ve seen how that ends before though haven’t we? It didn’t end well for the ruling elite.

        • Mark Forsyth

          Then or now,I would expect the same results. I guess there will always be those who feel they are impervious to the wrath of millions,but obviously they are also ignorant of history and the methods the masses use to free themselves from tyranny.Though our government is thoroughly corrupt we can still support those who put the truth out as well as supporting and voting for the most progressive candidates.
          Just because we don’t have tanks in our streets[yet] does not mean we’re not at war.It is a matter of degrees.Study the history of fascism and how it takes hold,and you will see what I mean.Keep an eye on your bank account and don’t be afraid to close it.

          • FredAppell

            Precisely.The Government is already deteriorating into Fascism. Their ignorant of history because our own history has proven that we can tolerate an awful lot. Many people trust the system to fix the challenges we face but for how long? The polarization has also helped create a massive obstacle, no one can agree on what should be done and when. As long as we keep bickering, we’re ripe for the pickings. If you noticed recently I’ve started a dialogue with a couple of conservatives on here. I find that although we are diametrically apart on our politics we still share some of the same concerns they do. I won’t argue some of the “Hot Button” issues with them, I would rather concentrate on the issues that unite us instead. We may need them Mark and I have no problem letting them know that. You and I have quite a progressive agenda
            but the only way we’ll ever see that through is if we fix the most pressing problems first. I appreciate the advice regarding my bank account, I will be keeping a very close eye on it.

          • Mark Forsyth

            One of the reasons I mention your bank account Fred,is due to my own recent experience.Although I do business with a rather small community bank,the officers decided to reduce interest rates on savings to a quarter of one percent.That really got my attention.I’m not at all sure how to interpret that action so I’m keeping an eye on things and am ready to take my own action in the event it proves to have dark implications.
            No reflection on you Fred,but I haven’t been following the Memo too much lately.I have some other things that have my attention lately.I admit that my feelings are sore as they apply to those I view as opponents though I do see the need to find common ground.Someone with more abilities than me will need to convince the other side who and what the real enemy is.

          • FredAppell

            No my friend, I didn’t take your comment as a reflection on me. I don’t post here as often either. Life is getting in the way right now and I am currently in the search for a second job to help supplement my paltry income. I know your strong feelings regarding the opposition and I don’t blame you one bit, I feel the same way but I know I can speak their language
            without compromising my own convictions.

        • kanawah

          yes, we need to get the guillotine greased up.

          • FredAppell

            Sounds like you’re already counting the days. LOL.

  • Daniel Jones

    Ted Cruz *sold* his mind, morals, and ethics. They aren’t his anymore.

    It’s in his contract.

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    Cruz is probably one of those who believes your voting rights should be regulated by your income, as the Roman Republic did. Back then, the people were divided into “tribes” which we can call “states”. In any given election, the first to vote were those whose families were eligible for Senate seats based on their income and financial worth. They would be followed by those of the “equestrian” class – those probably wealthier than many in the Senatorial class, but not elevated by the Censors. Then they would be followed by the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th classes (all based on income and property as defined by the Censors every 10 years), and if it had to, it went to the 5th class – those who were too poor to qualify for any other class. Here is the real kicker. After each “class” voted, that vote would be tallied, and the entire class for a tribe would be considered a done deal. All a candidate (or slate) need do was carry 4 classes to consider having “won” a tribe. So most elections were decided before the 4th or 5th classes ever voted, and often before the 3rd. To break down the numbers further, the Senatorial class was about 0.1% of a tribe. The Equestrians were another 2%. The 1st and 2nd classes made about 10%. The 3rd and 4th classes about 50%, and the 5th the remainder (about 38%). This means in most elections, less than 20% of the population voted.

    • FredAppell

      And yet the Senate couldn’t understand why the early emperors’ of the Roman Empire were so popular with the plebs.

  • Grannysmovin

    “We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain
    stupid.” Benjamin Franklin

    • kanawah

      For the most part, the teatard republicans are examples of the ones that succeed in remaining stupid.

      And you just can’t help stupid.
      Unfortunately, when enough of them get together and elect stupid people, they can impose their stupidity on the rest of us.

  • Allan Richardson

    Funny thing how that OTHER clause in the First Amendment fails to get any attention from the oligarchs and the theocrats of the Christian Taliban churches: “no establishment of religion.” Except when they want to complain that the “secularist” government (which is exactly what the First Amendment says it MUST be) tries to stop school boards from forcing students to recite THEIR prayers, or tries to stop bosses from forcing their employers to abide by the BOSSES’ religious rules against using birth control or being gay.

  • kanawah

    Teddy is one dumb SOB.
    He is one of the leading causes of the problems our nation faces, and every thing he does must makes it worse.

  • GChem 68

    Do you think that Karl Marx is thrilled about his resurrection by liberals in America?