Thursday, January 21, 2010


Nobody ever said the Constitution was right about everything, Remember human slavery? It took 76 years to get an amendment to the Constitution ending that. It’s too easy to forget that from 1789 until 1865 owning another human being as a piece of property was perfectly legal and entirely constitutional.

Now, many people are up in arms that the Supreme Court has ended limits on political spending by corporations, unions and just about anyone else. Check the 1st Amendment. If it protects your speech, doesn’t it also protect the other guy’s speech?

And, if a political contribution isn’t speech – protected by the 1st Amendment – what is it? The Court has ruled that nude dancing in a nightclub is speech. Isn’t spending your money to influence public discourse just as much an expression as pole dancing? Actually, that question has been rendered just as irrelevant as is any remaining strip club controversy. The Supreme Court has just ruled that Congress cannot limit political expenditures. As a result some people are crying out like Chicken Little – “THE SKY IS FALLING.” Of course they mean its democracy that’s falling. Corporations will now overwhelm political advertising, won’t they - perhaps, to the exclusion of the candidates themselves? Is the democratic sky really falling?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Federal election laws require that broadcast media, which the Federal Communications Commission regulates, is required to sell time to candidates and when they do sell that advertising they must offer the same amount of time, at the same cost, to all candidates for the same office. What the law does not cover is third-party political advertising – the sort the Supreme Court just ruled could not be financially limited. They may not be financially constrained, but who says Radio & TV has to run these political commercials?

Some of papa’s readers know papa once owned radio stations. There were times when I refused to sell time to advertisers – for various reasons. And there were times when those who were refused access to papa’s radio stations threatened to sue. Naturally they claimed I was interfering with their “1st Amendment rights.” They were wrong. There are no “constitutional rights” to buy advertising.

There is nothing in any FCC ruling that requires a radio or television station to sell time to anyone… except candidates for public office.

So, forget about the Supreme Court ruling. There is nothing to be afraid of. Democracy is not in danger. All we need to do to keep “the sky from falling” is for broadcasters to refuse to sell political time to anyone except a registered candidate for public office.

Or how about a 28th Amendment covering limitations on political spending? Our Constitution is still subject to amendment, isn’t it? So, start one rolling!

Anyone want to bet any of that stands a chance of happening?

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