On the Left’s favorite catchphrase “Money Isn’t Speech”

Since the Supreme Court dealt a blow to laws restricting money in politics in Citizens United v FEC and McCutcheon v FEC, it’s easy to spot a liberal conveying her displeasure by regurgitating a trite one-liner:

“Money isn’t speech.”

Well, take that Chief Justice Roberts – your court would certainly have decided otherwise, if only this piece of irrefutable insight were shared with it!

It would be easier to ignore such posturing, if a host of Democrats were not determined in undermining the First Amendment by rallying their base behind this slogan. Not kidding – forty-one Democrat Senators, including Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, proposed an amendment to the Constitution that will override the free speech protections afforded by the Bill of Rights!†

So, let me explain why the proposition “money isn’t speech,” even though superficially true, does not at all serve the purpose liberals want it to.

Of course, money isn’t speech, in a literal sense. But, that does not mean Congress can limit the money one can spend on furthering her speech while not affecting her right to free speech. Communicating speech may involve distributing pamphlets, books and movies; and writing articles on websites, all of which require money. Speech isn’t sui generis, in this sense. Money is an inextricable part of our lives and plays an important role in helping achieve our interests.

Consider this: money isn’t abortion, either. But you cannot expect liberals to stay mum if Congress were to propose passing laws limiting expenditure on abortion, can you? Would they not go up in arms about the supposed right to abortion being infringed? The plain truth is: it is impossible to limit expenditure on something and not affect the right to it!

Some counter that speech does not necessarily require money – one can, after all, simply choose to talk face-to-face with others. This rejoinder is misleading on multiple levels. First, you can only talk to so many people that way. Yes, you could recruit others to do the job, but guess what: they may ask to be paid! Or, you might find a group of people ready to volunteer for your cause, if there is one. That brings me to the crucial second point: even if there is a way that permits you to disseminate your ideas in a cost-free or less costly manner (in relation to the way you chose), the government has no business mandating that you use it.

It might not appear to be self-evident that this is the case: but, the alternative is to allow the government to regulate which channels of communication people can employ in various situations or limit the reach of your message, a clear affront to the First Amendment’s letter and spirit. The abortion analogy can come handy again: would liberals find it okay if the government decreed that a person must use a cheap healthcare facility, or limited the amount of money she could spend getting abortions? No!

The other common argument – that you can use “free” services like Twitter or YouTube similarly falls under minimal scrutiny. Leave aside, for a minute, the plain but overlooked fact that the continued operation of these services requires private funding: the government simply cannot be trusted with the power to tell which media are “acceptable.” If you want to launch your own website, write your own book, or create your own movie, you should be absolutely free to do so. The availability of “free” services, which by the way are and should be under no obligation to carry your views, is no excuse to restrict you.

The right to free speech is one of the most essential and cherished rights the citizenry has. Any proposal to diminish it under the pretense of “leveling the playing field” or “curtailing money in politics” is an outrage. As always, the solution lies in having more speech, not less.


Read Senator Ted Cruz’s insightful op-ed in The Wall Street Journal and Charles Cooke’s piece, both castigating Democrats for their assault on the First Amendment.

The Senate Joint Resolution 19 proposes an amendment to the Constitution that says “Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to Federal elections, including through setting limits on…the amount of funds that may be spent by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.” A book or movie may endorse a candidate, and thus would be subject to being banned or its distribution curtailed by the government. The Citizens United case was literally about FEC trying to limit the distribution of a movie criticizing Hillary Clinton.

Rand Paul’s second drone filibuster

Rand Paul’s last filibuster


In all probability, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) will be filibustering Obama’s nomination of David Barron to the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals today. His concerns lie with the legal memos Barron wrote justifying the killing of an American citizen overseas without due process.

The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution states that no person can be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Any legal reasoning that provides the executive branch the power to decide to execute a non-combatant citizen by itself is at odds with the plain text of the amendment.

Last week, Paul penned an op-ed in The New York Times urging that the memos be released before the nomination. He said that he could not “meaningfully carry out his…constitutional obligation to provide ‘advice and consent’ on this nomination” without reading “Barron’s most important and consequential legal writing.”

The memos were shown to Paul, but did little to assuage his concern. On May 15, Paul released an official statement vowing to filibuster:

“I’ve read David Barron’s memos concerning the legal justification for killing an American citizen overseas without a trial or legal representation, and I am not satisfied. While the President forbids me from discussing what is in the memos, I can tell you what is not in the memos.

There is no valid legal precedent to justify the killing of an American citizen not engaged in combat. In fact, one can surmise as much because the legal question at hand has never been adjudicated. Therefore, I shall not only oppose the nomination of David Barron, but will filibuster.” [emphasis mine]

Now, a report by the Business Insider says that Paul will indeed be following through with his promise!

I wholeheartedly appreciate Paul’s stance, and support his efforts to secure the Constitutional rights of Americans. The Founding Fathers were aware of the danger imposed by broad executive powers and therefore acted to restrain them with the Bill of Rights. That such restraints are being whittled away by secret legal opinions ought to be a concern for everyone!

Even then, Paul is receiving flak from neoconservatives. Jennifer Rubin, a columnist for the Washington Post, attacked him for his “drone demagoguery.” Her piece is quite representative of the way hawks think: it insinuates that politicians not willing to do away with due process are weak and not serious about dealing with terrorism. Such arguments need not even be refuted.

Baseless accusations aside, today’s filibuster will be a sequel to his 13-hour filibuster of John Brennan’s nomination to the CIA. That time, Paul voiced concern over the fact that the President would not admit that he did not have the authority to kill a non-combatant American citizen with a drone. He received huge amount of support from across the party lines. Twitter users registered their support by tweeting with the hashtag #StandWithRand. Notably, Paul succeeded in his quest, as the Attorney General replied with this letter:


Support him by tweeting with #StandWithRand. If this helps him with his expected 2016 Presidential campaign, all the better!

Update: The New York Times reports that the Obama administration will be publicly releasing the memo. Although, also that, “A spokesman for Mr. Paul said the senator would still take the Senate floor.”

Update 2: It happened! In case you missed it, this is the video


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