Previously we wrote about former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens’s desire to amend the Second Amendment, a position he reiterated during an interview with George Stephanopoulos yesterday. The practical effect of his amendment would be that Congress could pass a ban on individual gun ownership.
Today comes word via a New York Times article that Justice Stevens, who has been making the rounds in connection with his new book, “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution,” would also like to override the First Amendment “to address what he [Stevens] said was the grave threat to American democracy caused by the torrent of money in politics.”
To wit, Adam Liptak of the Times writes:
“The new amendment would override the First Amendment and allow Congress and the states to impose “reasonable limits on the amount of money that candidates for public office, or their supporters, may spend in election campaigns.”
I asked whether the amendment would allow the government to prohibit newspapers from spending money to publish editorials endorsing candidates. He [Justice Stevens] stared at the text of his proposed amendment for a little while. “The ‘reasonable’ would apply there,” he said, “or might well be construed to apply there.”
Or perhaps not. His tentative answer called to mind an exchange at the first Citizens United argument, when a government lawyer told the court that Congress could in theory ban books urging the election of political candidates.
Justice Stevens said he would not go that far.
“Perhaps you could put a limit on the times of publication or something,” he said. “You certainly couldn’t totally prohibit writing a book.”‘
Justice Stevens’s premise for such an amendment is encapsulated in a single remark made earlier in the article: “The voter is less important than the man who provides money to the candidate.”
“The voter is less important than the man who provides money to the candidate.” – Justice John Paul Stevens
In the Times piece, the retired Supreme Court Justice expresses his dismay over the recent McCutcheon v. FEC ruling, which “struck down the aggregate limits on the amount an individual may contribute during a two-year period to all federal candidates, parties and political action committees combined.”
Justice Stevens argues that though the McCutcheon ruling was consistent with prior Supreme Court decisions, presumably including Citizens United v. FEC, it was similarly based on an incorrect interpretation of the law.
According to Justice Stevens: “The opinion [McCutcheon v. FEC] is all about a case where the issue was electing somebody else’s representatives…The opinion has the merit of being faithful to the notion that money is speech and that out-of-district money has the same First Amendment protection as in-district money…I think that’s an incorrect view of the law myself.”
Justice Stevens’s book, “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution,” comes out tomorrow.