Senate Dems plan vote amending the First Amendment to curtail criticism

Think of the big issues facing the American public. We now routinely borrow about 40 cents on the dollar for our federal budget, our entitlement programs are heading for a fiscal collapse in the hundreds of trillions of dollars, and our economy has stagnated through nearly five years of Democratic-run economic policy in the “recovery.” What do Senate Democrats plan to do about this? Make it harder for us to complain about it, as John “Doc Zero” Hayward quipped on Twitter:

Senate Democrats will schedule a vote this year on a constitutional amendment to reform campaign finance as they face tens of millions of dollars worth of attack ads from conservative groups.

The Senate will vote on an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) that would overturn two recent court cases that have given corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals free rein to spend freely on federal races.

“The Supreme Court is trying to take this country back to the days of the robber barons, allowing dark money to flood our elections. That needs to stop, and it needs to stop now,” said Senate Rules Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who announced the plan.

“The only way to undo the damage the court has done is to pass Senator Udall’s amendment to the Constitution, and Senate Democrats are going to try to do that,” he said.

Schumer said the vote would take place by year’s end and called on Republican colleagues to join Democrats to ensure “the wealthy can’t drown out middle-class voices in our Democracy.”

Yes, that will be amusing to watch. For the record, constitutional amendments require two-thirds votes for passage in both chambers of Congress before going to the states, three-quarters of which must vote to ratify it. I doubt that Senate Democrats will get three-quarters of their own caucus to vote to amend the First Amendment, but if they do, that will make a really tasty talking point for Republicans in the midterms. “Democrats can’t defend their policy failures,” they’ll argue, “so they want to keep people from spending their own money to criticize them.” And they’ll be right.

If Democrats think this will allow them to ride a wave of Occupy Wall Street populism, they’d better look again at the polling this week. Despite spending weeks on the Senate Floor ranting about the Koch Brothers, Harry Reid’s McCarthyite campaign of Kochsteria has resulted in … almost nothing. In the NBC/WSJ poll linked earlier, only 31% had an opinion about the Koch Brothers at all, and only 21% thought of them negatively in a poll where 43% of the respondents admit to voting for Obama in 2012. Michael Bloomberg, one of the left’s multibillionaire activists, got a 26% negative score, and the Democratic Party got a 37% negative score. (The GOP got 44%.) Nearly twice as many respondents think of Barack Obama negatively than they do the Koch Brothers, despite weeks of hard-sell demonization from top Democratic Party leaders.

If Democrats (and Republicans) want to act seriously to take billionaires out of the political game, they’re aiming at the wrong Supreme Court decision. They should pass an amendment repealing Wickard v Filburn‘s impact on the interstate commerce clause. That decision shifted massive political power from the states to Washington DC by defining practically everything as interstate commerce — including non-commerce. Killing Wickard would shift most regulatory power back to the states, and take the corruption out of Washington DC as the stakes would become too small for billionaire investment. Don’t expect Senate Democrats to do anything meaningful on crony capitalism, though … or anything meaningful at all, if this stunt is all they have.

Update: Citizens United president David Bossie responds:

“As with the failure of the DISCLOSE Act in 2010, this shameful attempt to alter the United States Constitution to protect incumbency will go down in flames,” said David N. Bossie, President of Citizens United. “With recent polls coming out showing that Democrats in Congress face another huge midterm loss, it is not surprising that they would go back to their bag of tricks and try to defeat Citizens United and free speech. This latest attempt is laughable, Senate Democrats should focus on creating jobs not infringing on every Americans First Amendment rights.”