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Robert Bennett: More, rather than less, political speech is a good thing

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  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    April 7, 2014 4:59 a.m.

    Reminds me of the saying "I have a bridge to sell you"

    Bennett writes "liberals are now insisting that one’s free speech rights should decrease as one’s net worth increases."

    Constitutionally, looks like the case is settled. The bribery in our politics is now completely legal and limitless.

    Money in politics corrupts. You know it and I know it.

    Corporate money, Union money, Koch brothers money, Soros money. It all corrupts. I see not difference in those dollars.

    Constitutionality aside, Do you think the money in politics corrupts the system?

    Bennett also writes

    "Liberal commentators claim this decision undermines democracy; Conservatives declare it a victory for free speech."

    Maybe both can be true. It could be construed as a victory for free speech, but we KNOW it compromises the decisions of our elected officials.

  • xert Santa Monica, CA
    April 7, 2014 7:03 a.m.

    The Des News censors rarely let my comments through even though in every rejected comment I've posted, I've tried to remain civil and avoided personal attacks. Also, each and every time one of my comments have been rejected I can look on the same thread and see many of the more party line comments, which contain intolorence, pettiness and simply support the Des News positions. Free speech is a tricky thing. Mr. Bennett is not in a position to reap the profits of the Koch brothers or the Addlesons of our nation, but you can tell he'd like to be back in their good graces. Our democracy was dealt a death blow by Citizens United and this is simply the icing on the cake. Now we read where Mr. Addlesons flew,the GOP likely candidates out to Nevada for a little meet and greet/audition. Lovely, Republicans! And bravo! This is what you've left yourself with. A miserable field of candidates cowtowing to the elite of our nation. This Supreme Court will be remembered for this. Forever.

  • Midwest Mom Soldiers Grove, WI
    April 7, 2014 7:29 a.m.

    If speech is free, then why the $ value?

    The late British socialist, Tony Benn, had this to say, and I think he was absolutely right.

    "What democracy did was to give the poor the vote.And it moved power from the marketplace
    to the polling station. From the wallet to the ballot."

    What Citizens United and McCutcheon do is diminish the ballot, in favor of the wallet. That the courts call it freedom is incomprehensible, unless you realize that some of these justices are guests of special interest meetings and at least one justice has a spouse who is a lobbyist.

    Said Brigham Young, "One of the great evils with which our own nation is menaced at the present time is the wonderful growth of wealth in the hands of a comparatively few individuals. The very liberties for which our fathers contended so steadfastly and courageously ...are endangered by the monstrous power which this accumulation of wealth gives to a few... its seductive influence...threatens to give shape to
    legislation...according to history, such a tendency among nations once powerful was the sure precursor of ruin."

  • Roland Kayser Cottonwood Heights, UT
    April 7, 2014 8:11 a.m.

    I'll predict the contestants in the 2016 presidential race right now. It will be Hillary Clinton vs Jeb Bush for the simple reason that they have access to the biggest donor networks. In our new political era access to money will be the only thing that counts.

  • Esquire Springville, UT
    April 7, 2014 8:45 a.m.

    Bob, you are wrong on this one. More money causes free speech to be reduced. That big money controls the dialogue and smothers weaker speech.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    April 7, 2014 9:01 a.m.

    The American Revolution was about liberty and Justice for ALL,
    throwing off the shackles of the Wealthy Elite ruling the masses.

    Most Ironic of all --

    Today's "Tea-Party" supports these King-men,
    while trampling the rights of indivual citizens.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    April 7, 2014 9:08 a.m.

    In absolute terms, these rulings are correct. But they do not make things better, and there's no way to deny this puts a lot of power into the hands of the few that can buy it.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    April 7, 2014 9:26 a.m.

    Reading the first 2/3 of this article (the nice historical outline up to his attack on liberals) I kept thinking “what does this have to do unlimited campaign contributions?” I’m still trying to connect the dots that are apparently so clear to Mr. Bennett.

    The next time the Koch brothers or George Soros (pick your partisan poison) decides they are going to give an obscene amount of money to your local congressman, who’s call do you think he’ll take when his secretary says, “congressman, I have Joe Shmoe from Anytown USA and Mr. Soros on the lines?”

    And for anyone who still believes money is not inherently corrupting to representative democracy, ask yourself what a billionaire typically expects in return for his money. Even the most philanthropic minded still want their name on a building they bankrolled. How much more will they want from a living breathing congressman whose daily actions or inactions can mean a return on investment that would make a hedge fund look like a passbook savings account.

    And limited government? Please… this is pouring gasoline on a fire (“fire” meaning government power).

  • Ralph Salt Lake City, UT
    April 7, 2014 10:13 a.m.

    If you're fabulously wealthy, then you would naturally believe your money doesn't corrupt politics or politicians.

    If you're like the other 99% of people, you understand that you don't have the same voice as very wealthy people and corporations.

    If you're not fabulously wealthy, and you support the very wealthy in this, then someone has sold you a bill of goods....namely, corporate media.

    I'm sorry, money does NOT equal speech. The SCOTUS got it wrong on this one.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    April 7, 2014 10:34 a.m.

    And limited government? Please… this is pouring gasoline on a fire (“fire” meaning government power).

    ======

    Agreed.

    Anyone claiming they are for "Limited Government",
    and then cheering "Unlimited Spending" under the false guise of Free Speech fooling themselves.

  • xert Santa Monica, CA
    April 7, 2014 11:10 a.m.

    Sincere thanks for this thread and to the Des News for letting the people speak on this issue. If Mr. Bennett can look at this thread and not feel himself slightly put "in check," then he needs two teaspoons of reality. This is a pure example of Reps. and Dems. finding true common ground and politicians and justices can't feel the heat rising on this issue, they would be wise to read A Tale of Two Cities. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic (well, you have to be when you're speaking with a tiny megaphone while the Addlesons of the world are using concert quality mikes and speakers...) your "let them eat cake," moment is upon you.

  • Irony Guy Bountiful, Utah
    April 7, 2014 12:16 p.m.

    "Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth." James 5:1-4

  • Stalwart Sentinel San Jose, CA
    April 7, 2014 12:28 p.m.

    There are a few issues on which I believe that very liberal folks, such as myself, and very conservative folks should be joining forces to combat. NSA spying is one and this is the other.

    It doesn't matter your stripe, we all recognize that in nearly all election cycles, any social issue, and every political decision the person/organization/group that has more money almost always wins. Our Congress is comprised of more wealthy individuals than ever before. Our Nation is slowly creating a ruling class wherein political inroads are nearly unforgeable if you don't have the means (or someone who will support you using their means).

    We all have to admit that the marketplace for ideas is no longer pure. Our topical debates are no longer won or lost based on substance but rather spending. In this case, the enemy of your enemy is your friend. It should be a combined effort to pass a Constitutional amendment to get rid of this deplorable system and then, once that is taken care of, we can go back to having true debate among ourselves - until that happens, politics is just a fiction.

  • Steve C. Warren WEST VALLEY CITY, UT
    April 7, 2014 12:39 p.m.

    Maybe we need a constitutional amendment requiring all politicians who receive more than $5,000 from one source to dress sort of like NASCAR drivers whose jumpsuits prominently display the names of their sponsors. The politicians would be required to wear this clothing whenever they're doing something related to their office, including campaigning. During a climate-change hearing, for example, senators' clothing would show us which oil companies contributed more than $5,000 to them.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    April 7, 2014 1:11 p.m.

    That is one way. However, Steve, their clothing is not large enough to list everyone who has paid them off.

    How about this. If you receive money from an oil company, you must recuse yourself from voting on legislation that affects oil companies. Or big union contributions bar you from voting on legislation that affects unions.

    You know, kind of like a judge not sitting on a case where his brother is the defendant or sitting in judgement of a company with which he owns a lot of stock.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    April 7, 2014 1:40 p.m.

    I'm still just agast that the Deseret News has openly and whole-heartedly supported this ruling,
    as well as many good Latter-Day Saints who for political reason do so as well.

    It's almost like their hatred of "all things Obama" has tainted them to the point of no longer recognizing Right from Wrong. Good vs. Evil.

    BTW --
    I'm still trying understand how unlimit Money is a Good thing in our Democractic political process,
    and how it accomplishes the polar opposite, or fights the Gadianton Robbers,
    who also destroyed the once righteous Nephites.

  • Wonder Provo, UT
    April 7, 2014 2:05 p.m.

    Steve Warren and Joe Blow -- Both fabulous ideas. It would be ideal if representatives were not allowed to vote on any legislation affecting their sugar daddies (a clear conflict of interest), but at the least, full disclosure about who is donating to these politicians and how much they are giving is essential. I fully support the NASCAR concept. LOL

  • Nate Pleasant Grove, UT
    April 7, 2014 3:47 p.m.

    @Tyler D "The next time the Koch brothers or George Soros (pick your partisan poison) decides they are going to give an obscene amount of money to your local congressman..."

    ...they will pay a penalty up to twice the amount contributed. The per-candidate spending limit is still in place.

    @Steve C. Warren "Maybe we need a constitutional amendment requiring all politicians who receive more than $5,000 from one source to dress sort of like NASCAR drivers...."

    Again, the per-candidate spending limit is still in place. It's $2600 for one election. This hasn't changed.

    I wonder if the best campaign reform might not be a reading comprehension test for voters.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    April 7, 2014 7:03 p.m.

    First Amendment:

    "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."

    Does anyone see any reference or applicability to the individual citizen in the First Amendment?

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    April 7, 2014 7:09 p.m.

    Nate, So, you really see a big distinction?

    I am limited on what I can give directly to the candidate who will use the money to run a campaign, (lets say to put out political ads) but I can run all the ads I want myself and spend without limits to do so.

    How is the end result functionally different?

    Sorry, but it is not about reading comprehension. It is about the ease in which one can circumvent the system and accomplish the exact same thing.

  • the truth Holladay, UT
    April 7, 2014 7:10 p.m.

    @Midwest Mom

    And what did Brigham Young say we should do about it?

    Teaching gospel principles, religious morals, and change people hearts?

    As a founding father noted the Constitution was written only for moral people. And where did those people learn those morals? From Religion!

    Improve the people, don't empower the government and limit the people.

    Bennett is right on this one.

  • Nate Pleasant Grove, UT
    April 7, 2014 8:02 p.m.

    @JoeBlow "So, you really see a big distinction?"

    Yes, I do.

    When I give money to a candidate, he controls how it is spent, and the message produced by it.

    When I produce the message, it is mine. He is prohibited by law from controlling my message, or even coordinating with me on its production. My message can help him, hurt him, or a mixture of the two. It is my choice. Hundreds of millions of people with a message are what we call grass roots. This is a good thing.

    Now, thanks to the Supreme Court, there is no limit to the number of candidates I can support, in the same way that there is no limit to the number of candidates a newspaper may endorse. My influence has increased, as has yours. In a democratic republic, power belongs to the people.

    In the Brigham Young statement quoted above, the portion omitted was his solution: that many people participate in the economy and enjoy prosperity, so that their combined wealth counteracts the weight of the few. The answer to concentrated power is overwhelming grassroots power.

  • Nate Pleasant Grove, UT
    April 7, 2014 8:08 p.m.

    @JoeBlow "Sorry, but it is not about reading comprehension."

    That wasn't directed at you. We are commenting on a specific court decision, and there were a couple of people who didn't seem aware of what was decided, even though Bailout Bob covered it in his first paragraph.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    April 8, 2014 4:51 a.m.

    Nate.

    I happened to agree with the free speech aspect of the ruling.

    But, I strongly feel that it is terrible for our country. As is Citizens United.

    You describe a "power of the people" Grass roots campaign. I think most of us agree that is a great way and very good for politics. And this is why the ruling on free speech is the correct one. But, rulings apply equally to the good and the bad.

    Sheldon Adelson spending hundreds of millions is not exactly grass roots. George Soros and huge unions spending millions is not exactly grass roots.

    Lockheed Martin spending hundreds of millions is not grass roots.

    These groups have the financial clout to change the outcome of elections. These are not "hundreds of millions of people with a message". These are individuals or corporations that are purchasing things favorable to them. Corporations do not pay money for nothing.

    You and I probably agree that grass roots is great for politics. However, we probably define it differently.

    out of posts

  • Ranch Here, UT
    April 8, 2014 6:23 a.m.

    It's only a good thing if you're very, very wealthy Bob. The rest of the citizens in this country essentially have no voice left since the big voices are now allowed to completely drown out the smaller voices with their mega-campaign-donations.

    It's called "bribery" everywhere else.

  • SCfan clearfield, UT
    April 8, 2014 7:10 a.m.

    What scares me about a Justice like Breyer on the Court is that he seems to have no rational constitutional reason for dissent. Only that he doesn't like the speech he hears from no limits on money. Scary thinking for a judge who supposedly has an appreciation of our Bill of Rights. Really scary.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    April 8, 2014 8:59 a.m.

    @Nate – “I wonder if the best campaign reform might not be a reading comprehension test for voters.”

    Thank you Nate – is it safe to assume this was directed at me?

    You’re correct in so much as I went from point A to point E and assumed people were smart enough to make the interim connections, but since I apparently assumed too much I’ll try to correct my error.

    Rich guy A wants to support Candidate B with “an obscene amount of money,” but the law forbids him from doing so directly… what to do, what to do?

    No problem!

    Someone sets up a PAC that (shockingly!) mirrors all the positions Candidate B. Rich guy A then gives that aforementioned ridiculous amount of money to the PAC whose sole purpose it is to elect someone who holds all the views of Candidate B.

    Problem solved… no laws are broken, free speech is alive and well, and our voices are heard… well, some voices anyway.

    Is that a more accurate description of our post-Citizens United world?

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    April 8, 2014 10:18 a.m.

    @Nate – “I wonder if the best campaign reform might not be a reading comprehension test for voters.”

    Thank you Nate…

    You’re correct in so much as I went from point A to point E and assumed people would make the interim connections, but since I apparently assumed too much I’ll try to correct my error.

    Rich guy A wants to support Candidate B with “an obscene amount of money,” but the law forbids him from doing so directly… what to do, what to do?

    No problem!

    Someone sets up a PAC that (shockingly!) mirrors all the positions Candidate B. Rich guy A then gives that aforementioned ridiculous amount of money to the PAC whose sole purpose it is to elect someone who holds all the views of Candidate B.

    Problem solved… no laws are broken, free speech is alive and well, and our voices are heard… well, some voices anyway.

    Is that a more accurate description of our post-Citizens United world?

  • Midwest Mom Soldiers Grove, WI
    April 8, 2014 10:57 a.m.

    What was omitted from the Brigham Young quote was to make it fit the 200 word limit and keep the main idea.

    Government is the people. That Governments become corrupted is not due to the people, but the influence of the few. Mr. Bennett is not right. People who want to contribute to as many candidates as possible are seeking to influence. Currently, many of the uber-wealthy use their influence far from where they live and where they can vote. That's not big government, that's small minds with large influence.

    If all government is anathema, then why vote at all?

    There are political forces at work, Mr. Bennett, that seek to limit access to the polls while also amplifying the voices of the powerful few. I would love to discuss with Bennett why he celebrates this culture. Perhaps citizens, as well as speech, have different values for him.

  • m.g. scott clearfield, UT
    April 8, 2014 11:48 a.m.

    Tyler D

    You can say that again.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    April 8, 2014 11:51 a.m.

    Senator,

    I am disappointed.

    All,

    If money is speech and speech is good then money is good and the more of it in the political process the better.

    Our politicians will be more ethical, more sensitive to the needs of the average constituent, and more likely to vote their conscience. When I call and a wealthy campaign donor calls we will both be given equal access to the politician's calendar and time. People will be elected to office without regard to their ability to cuddle up to the wealthy. My voice (my speech) will be just as loud and well heard as that of any other person - even if they give hundreds of thousands away during the political season. The people will see these benefits. They will feel more and more a part of the system and more invested in America. Hence, there will be less future strife.

    Honestly, this is just a great idea. What could possibly go wrong . . .

  • GaryO Virginia Beach, VA
    April 8, 2014 12:19 p.m.

    More Republitalk I see.

    In Right Wing America, money now equates to free speech.

    Speech has traditionally been defined as COMMUNICATION. The spoken word, the written word, the telecasted word . . . And images. Images are communication too, and therefore can be thought of as speech.

    If money is now speech, as Right Wingers claim, then we have to broaden the meaning of speech to include more than just communication. Speech is now INFLUENCE.

    Bribery is a wonderfully effective means of influencing people. Republicans who work for the Koch brothers while pretending to work for their constituents are influenced by big money. But that's Ok, because it's just free speech.

    The murders and dismembering of rival drug cartel members, the threats, and the bribing of public officials just across the border in Mexico are meant to INFLUENCE, and they therefore qualify as free speech according to the expanded Republican definition. Should we be surprised that greedy and ruthless Mexican drug cartels have so much in common with Republicans?

    Right Wingers have polluted the language, the thinking, and the very soul of America with their broadened definition of "free speech."

  • Schnee Salt Lake City, UT
    April 8, 2014 4:27 p.m.

    It's rather funny how this runs completely counter to the argument used against Count My Vote which is the claim that CMV would make it so that only well-funded candidates (like Bennett) could run.

  • Nate Pleasant Grove, UT
    April 9, 2014 1:01 a.m.

    @Tyler D "Is that a more accurate description of our post-Citizens United world?"

    Yes, but it still misses the point: the more people we engage in the political process, the less power one individual will have to call the shots, regardless of how wealthy he is. Democracy causes an elected official to be beholden to a majority of the voters, not just a selected few.

    Suppose you could take all the money out of politics. You would still be stuck with the same problem: the political world would be flooded with whatever commodity was now recognized as being most likely to produce votes. (Persuasive speech, or whatever it may be.) And the candidate would feel beholden to whoever provided the most of that commodity. And someone would be crying out for that commodity to be limited. And limiting that commodity would probably be unconstitutional.

    The real solution to the problem of money in politics is to remove the incentive for bad guys to buy political office -- make it less attractive to the buyer. Centralized power is the magnet attracting the bad guys. So we should decentralize power, and put the federal government in charge of fewer things.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    April 9, 2014 9:25 a.m.

    Nate,

    Taking money out of politics would be the best thing we can do for democracy. Sure, things like “persuasive speech” would be the driving commodity, but that’s exactly how the Founders envisioned it. Those who chose to participate in the process are the ones that will be heard, a fact that would encourage mass participation, especially at the state & local level.

    Money perverts all this, and contrary to your ideal of decentralized power, money encourages centralized power. I simply don’t understand this thinking on the Right of wanting to put out the fire of big government by pouring gasoline on it.

    Back to your well stated point about persuasive speech, taking the money out of the process would make elected officials beholden to those who elect them, not a rich guy in another district or state.

    So while you rightly conclude that money in politics is a bad thing (unlike the five SC justices who think it’s not corrupting unless it’s a direct bribe), you fail to see that it causes the very thing you want to eliminate.

  • GaryO Virginia Beach, VA
    April 9, 2014 1:24 p.m.

    Hey Nate -

    " . . . the more people we engage in the political process, the less power one individual will have to call the shots . . ."

    Uh huh . . . But calling money free speech does the EXACT opposite.

    It concentrates power in the hands of just a few wealthy individuals. It eliminates Democracy and replaces it with Plutocracy.

    "Centralized power is the magnet attracting the bad guys. So we should decentralize power, and put the federal government in charge of fewer things."

    No way. You invented a phony reason to justify your states-rightist's prejudice.

    That makes NO sense. How can you justify your premise that centralized power attracts the bad guys more than decentralized power? The bad guys are on the fringes, nibbling away at the fabric of society by propagandizing and bamboozling undiscerning individuals. Look at the Koch brothers' relationship to Tea Party organizations . . . Rich patrons who have turned millions of pliable people into peons willing to sacrifice the well-being of themselves and their families so the Koch brothers and their wealthy friends can grow richer.

    As a result, this Tea-Party-infested Congress routinely obstructs all attempts at good governance.

  • Kim Cedar Park, Texas
    April 9, 2014 9:38 p.m.

    When we have a political system that now requires elected officials to spend the majority of their time pursuing campaign contributions, something is wrong.

  • Alter Nate Pleasant Grove, UT
    April 12, 2014 6:32 p.m.

    @Tyler D "Sure, things like 'persuasive speech' would be the driving commodity, but that's exactly how the Founders envisioned it."

    Right, they did. Now consider how persuasive speech is delivered: television, radio, Internet, newspapers, books, magazines, music concerts, conventions, rallies, billboards, posters, lawn signs...too many different methods to name -- almost all of of them paid for with you-know-what. To limit spending on such items is to limit speech.

    "So while you rightly conclude that money in politics is a bad thing..."

    I conclude that money in politics is a necessary thing, and that the actions that make it a bad thing (bribery, etc.) are already illegal.

    "...you fail to see that it causes the very thing you want to eliminate."

    What I see is that, I cannot abridge the speech of a man I think is having too great an influence, without doing the same harm to my own liberty. The real solution to the problem is more free speech, not less.

    (Don't be blinded by Koch Derangement Syndrome. Some people around here have got a pretty bad case of it.)

  • Alter Nate Pleasant Grove, UT
    April 12, 2014 6:58 p.m.

    @GaryO "How can you justify your premise that centralized power attracts the bad guys more than decentralized power?"

    When Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he said, "...because that's where the money is."

    When someone bribes a public official, why do they do it? Because the public official has power to get things done for them. If an official has control over every single tiny aspect of your business life, it pays to get control of him. If he didn't have that control, why would it matter?

    Totalitarian governments are always rife with corruption. In a dictatorship, bribery is a way of life. There's a reason why.