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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Ted Cruz's Recent Free Speech Bills

From Concurring Opinions, I learned that Ted Cruz is proposing a couple of bills in an effort to quell Senate Democrats' quest for "unfettered power to regulate and stifle political speech."

His first bill, the "SuperPAC Elimination Act of 2014" would eliminate limits on direct contributions to clients. I suppose that this would have the incidental effect of eliminating SuperPACs, since people could contribute directly to candidates instead of contributing to SuperPACs that pay for their own advertisements. I know a lot of people who are not big fans of SuperPACs, but I think that they would find Cruz's alternative even more unpleasant.

Cruz's second bill is even more interesting. In his "Free All Speech Act of 2014," Cruz proposes that "[a]ny law that restricts the political speech of American citizens shall apply with equal force to media corporations." Cruz then lists several examples of media corporations: "the New York Times, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), and the CBS Television Network." Interestingly, Fox News is not included on the list.

This second bill is an apparent response to Tom Udall's proposed amendment to the Constitution, which would give Congress the "power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to Federal elections." Cruz criticizes the proposed amendment in a Wall Street Journal op ed here, noting that the amendment contains a caveat that it is not intended to limit the freedom of the press. Cruz's interpretation of this provision is that it gives more freedom of speech to the media rather than individual citizens.

These bills are not likely to pass --  I don't expect that the Udall amendment will go forward (since amendments like this have been proposed without success since the Court's 1976 decision in Buckley v. Valeo). If the Udall amendment falls, Cruz's bill will seem less pressing to the amendment's opponents, and the bills will probably fade into the background.

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