Why Does This Dem. Congressman Want to Amend the Constitution to Restrict Free Speech Rights?

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) is so unhappy that “Citizens United” protects the free speech rights of corporations and unions, that he believes we need to amend the Constitution.

“We need a constitutional amendment to allow the legislature to control the so-called free speech rights of corporations,” Rep. Johnson said last month at the Annesbrooks HOA candidate Forum in Georgia.

Watch Rep. Johnson make his remarks [via CNS News]:

“These corporations, along with the people they support, other millionaires who they’re putting into office, are stealing your government. They’re stealing the government and the U.S. Supreme Court was a big enabler with the Citizens United case,” said Rep. Johnson.

He continued:

They control the patterns of thinking. They control the media. They control the messages that you get. So, you are being taught to hate your government — don’t want government, but keep your hands off my Medicare by the way. I mean, we are all confused people and we’re poking fingers at each other saying, well you’re black, you’re Hispanic, immigration, homosexuals. You know, we’re lost on the social issues, abortion, contraception.

And these folks are setting up a scenario where they’re privatizing every aspect of our lives as we know it.

So, wake up! Wake up! Let’s look at what’s happening. We need a constitutional amendment to allow the legislature to control the so-called free speech rights of corporations.

It appears that many have forgotten — or simply misunderstand — the legal justification for the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision. Indeed, just last week, the New York Times’ editorial board attacked the court’s “disastrous” ruling.

What’s funny is that it’s left to First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams – the man who defended the NYT’s free speech rights in the infamous Pentagon Papers case — to correct the left-leaning newspaper and set the record straight:

“Justice Alito, Citizens United and the Press” (editorial, Nov. 20), criticizing Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s defense of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, misapprehends the nature of The Times’s own great victories in cases such as the Pentagon Papers and New York Times v. Sullivan.

You state correctly that in neither case did the court make anything of the fact that The Times is a corporation. But that is the point. In those cases, as in Citizens United, political speech was held protected regardless of who was speaking or what its corporate status was. As Justice Anthony M. Kennedy explained in Citizens United, “the First Amendment protects speech and speaker, and the ideas that flow from each.”

The law at issue in Citizens United permitted The Times to endorse candidates while making it a felony for nonmedia corporations to do so. It made it a crime for a union to distribute your endorsement of President Obama for re-election to its members. It should come as no surprise that the same First Amendment that was held to shield the press in landmark cases of the past now shields such speech as well.

New York, Nov. 20, 2012

Maybe — just maybe! — the Supreme Court got its ruling right and it’s the editorial board at the NYT and Rep. Hank Johnson who are wrong.

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(H/T: CNS News). Featured image courtesy Getty Images.