Why the Left Truly Hates the Citizens United Decision

The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (better known as the McCain–Feingold Act) prevented corporations and unions from funding any advertisements mentioning a candidate, or “electioneering communications,” within 30 days prior to a primary election or 60 days before a general election.  The law prevented any incorporated entity, including unions, corporations, and non-profit corporations, from using their funds to advocate for any issue, if any federal candidate’s name was included, in broadcast advertisements.  For example, within 60 days of a general election, a right to life organization could not air an anti-abortion ad if the name of any federal candidate were included.  An environmental advocacy organization would likewise be prohibited from broadcasting an advertisement in favor of clean-air standards if they chose to name any candidate for elected office.

From the start, this law was attacked by citizens as an unconstitutional infringement of the First Amendment of the Constitution, which protects freedom of speech and the right of the people to petition the government for redress of grievances.  In a number of cases, beginning in 2007, the Supreme Court agreed with the unconstitutional nature of the McCain-Feingold Act.  Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. (2007), Davis v. Federal Election Commission (2008), and, finally, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) Supreme Court decisions effectively gutted the key provisions of the McCain-Feingold Act, finding them an unconstitutional restraint on the ability of organizations to engage in political speech.

Since these decisions were announced, particularly the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commissions decision, many, particularly the so-called “progressives,” have been apoplectic.  They argue that allowing organizations of individuals the right to spend their own money advocating for or against political issues (and particularly, naming candidates’ stands on those issues) corrupts the political process by allowing wealthy organizations to “buy” governmental influence.

In this instance, the Supreme Court got it right.  (It may even be argued the Supreme Court didn’t go far enough in its decision).  The First Amendment clearly states, “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. (Italics mine).  There is no mention in the Constitution of limiting these rights to specific time periods or of restricting the types of communications that constitute freedom of speech.  The First Amendment has no restriction on who may exercise these rights or on how much an organization can spend on expressing their views.  The Constitution is clear that “Congress shall make no law” restricting these rights.  McCain-Feingold served to restrict First Amendment rights, and was rightfully ruled unconstitutional.

Recognizing the futility of trying to limit this type of speech through legislative means, “progressives” are trying to amend the Constitution to overturn the Citizens United decision.  Most recently, the New Jersey Assembly passed a bill calling for a Constitutional Convention to consider amendments to limit the “corrupting influence of excessive spending by outside interests.”  What the “progressives” don’t outright admit is that they are less concerned about the “corrupting influence of excessive spending” than they are of ensuring that the corruption is limited to advocating positions with which they agree.

There are many ways to influence governmental policy and spending money to air issue advocacy advertisements is just one of them.  Virtually every organization employs lobbyists who help craft legislation and garner support for it.  Organizations recruit and support “grass roots” volunteers to solicit support for favored candidates and legislation.  Political parties collect donations and dole them out to selected candidates.  Citizens can, and do (particularly in the age of the Internet), circulate petitions advocating for or against specific issues.  Ordinary citizens are free to write to their legislators or publish their own views using the media of their choice.  Why aren’t the “progressives” up in arms with these attempts to “corrupt” the political process? The issues the “progressives” have with independent expenditures of private money to influence legislation has less to do with corruption and more to do with control.  Organizations using their own money to advocate for their favored political positions cannot be influenced or restrained by specific political parties.  Political parties, or organizations beholden to them, are the chief organizers of “grass roots” campaigns.  They can easily control the influence and use of lobbyists through legislation.  But they have absolutely no control as to what a specific organization can say through independent political advertising.  Anyone, not just organizations favored by incumbent politicians, can craft, disseminate, and shape political issues.

So-called “progressives” are worried that moneyed interests, through their ability to fund issue advertising, will have an inordinate influence due to their wealth.  Besides underestimating the ability of the American public to engage in their own critical thinking, this argument ignores the fact that allowing private organizations to air their opinions is far more democratic than limiting messages to time frames and content approved by the government.  In addition, the value of individual wealth is greatly overestimated.  Organizations, particularly labor unions and non-profit corporations could pool small amounts of money from large numbers of donors to advocate for their favorite political positions.  Issue advocacy advertising is not the exclusive domain of a few wealthy individuals or corporations – it is now available to any group able to organize like-minded individuals and gain their financial support.

“Progressive” legislators and their supporters say they are worried that the ability of independent organizations to spend their money on issue advocacy will “corrupt” the political process.  By using this argument, the legislators are admitting they can easily be corrupted and will be unduly influenced by messages aired by independent entities.  In fact, legislators are already corrupted by messages emanating from their own political parties.  In every legislature, there is a party position called a “whip,” whose job it is to instill legislative discipline on its own party members.  The true issue is not one of corruption or undue influence – the “progressives” are really worried about who dictates the influence.  Because they, or their political organizations, have no control over the messages disseminated by independent organizations, the “progressives” lose their monopoly on shaping the types and content of messages received by the American public.  This is the true concern for those fighting to overturn the Citizens United decision.

If the “progressives” were truly concerned that those airing issue advocacy ads could “buy” government influence, they would shrink the size and scope of government so that there is nothing worth buying.  As long as the government insists of extending its tentacles into every aspect of human and corporate behavior, there will be those trying to exercise their influence so that government policies benefit their own specific interests.  Attempting to outlaw specific means to influence policy (particularly when allowing other techniques) does nothing to solve the perceived problem of groups attempting to purchase governmental influence.  There will always be those who attempt to corrupt the system by asserting undue influence as long as the government wields the power to control individual and business decisions.  There will always be legislators, and other government officials, willing to sell their offices to the highest bidder.  The solution to this problem is not to ban the constitutionally-protected right to free speech and to petition the government.  The solution is to remove the temptation to influence government by reducing the areas in which influence can be peddled.

Sadly, this is anathema to most “progressives.”  “Progressives” are dedicated to using government to advance their agenda of controlling the populace.  Reducing the scope of government, in addition to allowing independent issue advocacy, is an assault on their monopoly of control.

 

Obama’s Toddler Diplomacy

“Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.” 

-President Barack Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast, February 5, 2015

President Obama’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast are being criticized from all quarters.  Some have said the president is “throwing Christians under the bus.”  Others have argued that the president’s remarks are historically inaccurate, dated, or serve to trivialize the heinous acts being carried out by groups like ISIS in the name of Islam.  While these criticisms may very well be valid, most commentators are ignoring the more important significance of Obama’s remarks.  His remarks serve as a reminder of the liberal mindset when dealing with enemies of the state – empathize with those whose actions deserve no empathy, try to reason with those who are unreasonable, search for explanations when no rational explanations exist, search for common ground when there is no common ground, and, when all else fails, blame oneself for failing to reign in evil using peaceful means.

How many of us have seen a three-year old toddler engage in a temper tantrum in a public place, only to find a (usually liberal) parent ignoring the situation or quietly trying to “reason” with the child?  Naturally, this approach almost always fails.  Three-year-old children have not yet developed the capacity for reason, so any attempt to rationally “reason” with them is bound to end in frustration for the child, the parent, and any other poor soul in the vicinity.  The only actions to which a child of that age is likely to respond is a firm voice commanding him to stop, or a swift swat on the behind.  Trying to “reason” with a three-year-old is about as productive as trying to teach a dog the principles of quantum physics.

Similarly, throughout history, there have been individuals, groups, and nations that have engaged in actions so heinous; they defy any reason or rational explanation.  Pol Pot wiped out 25% of Cambodia’s population in his attempt to create an agrarian Communist Utopia, Stalin thrust the Ukraine into famine in the 1930’s in his attempt to force collectivization of agriculture.  Japan ravaged China and the rest of Asia in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  Hitler killed over 17 million people, and that number doesn’t even include war casualties.  We can go further back in history to find nations and rulers who engaged in wholesale torture, genocide, and repression.  None of these inhumane regimes were stopped by reason, empathy, or appeasement.  Either someone else stepped in and intervened militarily, or the evil rulers died of their own accord.

In conducting his foreign policy, Obama is attempting to apply reason where reason doesn’t exist.  It is not reasonable for a group of middle-eastern terrorists to behead foreigners, summarily execute individuals of different faiths or denominations, or burn prisoners of war alive.  No amount of reason will convince Kim Jong-un to abandon his quest for nuclear weapons or to provide his nation with even the rudiments of freedom.  Gathering the leaders of Europe together to sing “Kumbaya” will not stop Vladimir Putin’s quest to unite all Russian-speaking people under his dictatorship, even if those Russian speakers live in other sovereign states.  We can empathize with those who wish us ill all we want.  But no amount of empathy will prevent evil men from perpetrating evil deeds.

Diplomacy and compromise have an important role in international relationships.  When two civilized nations have a disagreement about a civilized issue, negotiation is often an effective way to resolve the issue.  But when a nation engages in conduct outside of the norms of acceptable civilized behavior, no amount of negotiation will ever be successful.  Perpetrators of evil will continue to engage in evil activities until their actions are stopped by another nation.  No amount of talking, understanding, self-criticism, empathy, or appeasement will reign in an evil regime.  Look at recent history.  Neville Chamberlain touted his appeasement of Hitler as guaranteeing “peace in our time.”  But it took Winston Churchill’s steadfast leadership and determination of physically attacking Germany to finally end the horror of the Nazi regime.

Barack Obama can continue to engage in all of his self-criticism about the past evils of Christianity, or even the United States.  But none of his self-reflection will stop organizations and nations like ISIS or North Korea from continuing to threaten United States citizens.  When a Jordanian pilot was immolated by ISIS thugs, King Abdullah II of Jordan, a 43rd-generation direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, didn’t wring his hands trying to understand or empathize with ISIS.  He recognized pure evil as evil, and immediately took action – executing ISIS terrorists and conducting air strikes against their strongholds.  King Abdullah recognizes that the only way to defeat evil is to eradicate evil.  Trying to reason with evil is about as effective as trying to reason with a three-year-old.

Liberals live in a world of delusion.  They are so certain of their own moral righteousness, they can not even begin to comprehend the reasons others may not share their opinions.  They believe talking to opponents, even those who seek nothing other than to do us harm, will eventually convince purveyors of evil to change their ways.  And if talking out the problem fails, which invariably occurs when dealing with evil, liberals shrink back into self-reflection and self-hatred – believing that they must somehow be responsible for the evil actions of others.  This leads to attempts at appeasement – another failed strategy for dealing with evil.

Evil can only be overcome by force.  It may be economic force, such as Reagan’s policy to increase defense spending which almost bankrupted the Soviet Union as they strove to keep up.  It may be military force.  Japan wasn’t going to surrender in World War II until they were subjected to certain nuclear annihilation.  Had Churchill followed Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement, Europe would likely still suffer under the Nazi yoke.  Regardless of the type of force used, only an unshakable resolve to directly confront threats to our citizens will be successful in defeating those who wish us harm.  Unfortunately, our current president believes that empathy for our enemies and endless self-criticism will convince them to stop their evil deeds.  Although Obama may pride himself on historical comparisons of Christianity to the Crusades and slavery, he shows an abject ignorance of the more important lessons of history.

 

A Tale of Two Justice Systems

Imagine you’re a 69-year-old retired veteran, taking your daily stroll through Seattle, leaning on a golf club you typically use as a cane.  Suddenly, a stranger approaches, falsely accuses you of swinging the golf club at her, and demands you drop the golf club immediately.  When you naturally refuse to relinquish your property, the stranger restrains you and, against your will, transports you away from the scene.

Wouldn’t you expect the stranger to be arrested on a slew of charges – kidnapping and attempted theft among them?

Suppose you are working as a reporter in Ocean County, New Jersey and you stumble upon a serious car accident.  After receiving permission from the firefighters on scene, you record the scene of the accident with the intention of filing a story about the incident.  A bystander takes exception to your activities, forcibly takes your camera, restrains you, and then, without your consent, forces you into his car, and whisks you away from the scene.

In this case, any reasonable person would expect the bystander to be cited for theft and kidnapping, among other charges.

Maybe you’re just minding your own business in California, when someone accuses you of murder.  The prosecutor knows the statements of the accuser are patently false, but allows the trial to continue without making any mention of the false statements.  You are convicted of the murder, based upon the false statements.

Wouldn’t you expect the prosecutor to be arrested for denying your rights to a fair trial?

If regular citizens committed these offenses, they undoubtedly would have been held accountable for their actions, and prosecuted to the full extent provided by law.  In fact, these offenses were committed by government officials charged with upholding the law!

In the first example, Seattle Police Officer Cynthia Whitlatch accused William Wingate of swinging his golf club at her.  She arrested him on these charges.  A video later exonerated Wingate, clearly displaying that Officer Whitlatch lied about the incident.  In the six months between the arrest and the release of the video, William Wingate was coerced to plead “guilty to unlawful use of a weapon, a misdemeanor, under an agreement in which the case would be dismissed after two years if he complied with all conditions ordered by the judge” (as reported by the Seattle Times).  Seattle police officials later apologized to Wingate.

In the second example, Andrew P. Flinchbaugh, a freelance reporter for The Lacey Reporter was filming the aftermath of a single-car accident involving an officer employed by the Ocean County, New Jersey prosecutor’s office.  Although Mr. Flinchbaugh was not interfering with first responders on the scene, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Detective David Margentino demanded that Mr. Flinchbaugh hand over his camera, even though Mr. Flinchbaugh was conducting himself completely within the law.  When Mr. Flinchbaugh rightfully refused, he was arrested on a disorderly person’s offense.  Charges against Mr. Flinchbaugh were later dropped, but the prosecutor’s office refused to issue an apology.

In the final example, Johnny Baca was twice convicted of murdering John Adair and John Mix, based upon the false testimony of a jailhouse informant.  Although prosecutors knew the testimony was false, they continued to press the case, until judges from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal excoriated the prosecutor’s for their misdeeds.  Patrick J. Hennessey Jr., the lawyer representing Baca, was reported to say he had never seen such an “egregious” case of prosecutorial misconduct.

In all these cases, little has been done to hold the perpetrators accountable for their conduct.  Officer Whitlatch has been reassigned to desk duty while an “investigation” is being conducted.  No known sanctions have been levied against Detective Margentino, but the prosecutor’s office has promised to update their training so that future constitutional violations of this type will not continue.  No prosecutors have been taken to task in the case of Mr. Baca.  In none of these cases were the officials, operating under the color of law, held criminally responsible for their actions.

In America, we really live under two sets of laws – those applied to ordinary citizens, and those applied to those who are supposed to enforce the laws.  Those charged with enforcing laws – judges, prosecutors, and police officers – are usually immune from criminal charges for the actions they perform as part of their official duties.  This concept of sovereign immunity shields those we entrust to enforce the law from being held accountable for following those same laws.  Essentially, while you or I will probably be held criminally accountable for actions that may violate laws, judges, prosecutors, and police are granted “get out of jail free” cards for violating these same laws.

The principles of judicial, prosecutorial, or police immunity have their origins in common law, and have been strengthened through statutory and case law.  Defenders of sovereign immunity argue that immunity is necessary to allow these agents of the state freedom to perform their duties without the constant threat of being second-guessed or harassed.  Proponents of immunity argue that agents of the court will be reluctant to diligently perform their jobs if, by doing so, they may be threatened with a barrage of lawsuits or possible criminal prosecution for simple “mistakes.”

As a result, agents of the court have an almost unlimited ability to betray the oath they swore to uphold the law.  A judge may sign orders he knows are illegal and face no criminal sanctions.  A prosecutor may allow false testimony or prosecute an individual she knows to be innocent and face no accountability for false imprisonment.  A police officer may blatantly violate someone’s rights or plant evidence, yet continue to be employed as a public servant.  The strongest sanctions that can be taken against agents of the court who betray their oaths is usually administrative – the loss of employment or the loss of his or her professional license.  Criminal prosecution, even against the most egregious conduct, is almost unheard of.

Fortunately, the courts have begun to poke some holes in immunity laws.  Sadly, these exceptions to sovereign immunity are not enough.  Judges, prosecutors, and police officers are well-trained in all the nuances of law – far better versed than the average citizen.  Yet, through our legal system, we do not hold them accountable to these laws.  Considering the pressure and professional stature involved with making arrests and winning cases, there is no incentive for law enforcement agents to actually follow the law.  In fact, and aided by immunity statutes, law enforcement agents are tacitly rewarded for skirting, or outright violating the law.  This results in thousands of people falsely convicted each year and thousands more routinely having their civil and constitutional rights violated.  When law enforcement agents aren’t held criminally accountable for their actions, abuses are bound to occur.  As these abuses pile up, public trust in these authorities diminishes.  Not only are individual liberties violated, the entire foundation of trust in the law crumbles.

If a typical citizen violates a law (regardless of whether she knew the action was illegal), she is branded a criminal.  If a judge, prosecutor, or police officer violates the same law in the conduct of their jobs, it is merely labeled a “mistake,” with no criminal sanction.  It betrays common sense that those who are most well-versed in the law are the least accountable to following it.  This is an abject assault on liberty and the tenets of civilized society.