TAMPA, Fla. — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told The Daily Caller Thursday that President Obama’s call to amend the Constitution to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling is “an act of genuine radicalism.”
Obama on Wednesday afternoon participated in a question and answer session on the Reddit forum community, where he declared his support for such an amendment.
“I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United,” Obama wrote on the website. “Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight on the super PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change.”
“It’s an act of genuine radicalism,” McConnell said when asked about his reaction to the president’s statement. “We haven’t amended the First Amendment in 235 years. The First Amendment is the core of not only freedom of religion, freedom to petition the government, and the rest, but most important, freedom of speech,” McConnell said. “And when the founders were thinking of freedom of speech, they were thinking of political speech.”
“What the president’s really upset with is the fact that there are a lot of voices out there who’ve gotten organized and don’t like what he’s doing,” McConnell continued. “And so what he wants to try to do is carve a nitch out of the First Amendment to give the government, itself the power to determine who speaks and who doesn’t.”
In the 2010 case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the court ruled that the First Amendment protected corporations and unions from having limits placed on their political expenditures.
McConnell has consistently been an outspoken critic of Democratic Party efforts to overturn that ruling through constitutional amendment or the use of the stalled DISCLOSE Act.
“The days when Arthur Salzberger and The New York Times dominated the national discussion are over,” McConnell explained in an exclusive interview.
“Citizens United was only about corporate speech, corporate speech. Prior to Citizens United, if you were a company that owned a media outlet, you were free to say whatever you wanted to about anybody you wanted to at anytime up to and including the day of the election. But if you were a corporation that did not own a media outlet, you were not,” McConnell said.
“So all the Supreme Court did was level the playing field for corporate speech so there’s no longer preferential treatment for The New York Times and The Washington Post.”
McConnell insisted, “it’s genuinely radical to think that you would actually amend the United States Constitution in order to give the government itself the power to determine who speaks and who doesn’t.”
The Kentucky senator said that although he would be comfortable with broader, equally applied rules for the public disclosure of political donors, he would be very concerned about the impact of putting the names of every individual who donates to a cause in the hands of the federal government.
“If the Congress ever decides that 501c4’s [social welfare groups] have to disclose — the hundreds and thousands of organizations out there — hand over to the government their donor list, anybody in power will have the ability, any government in power, to try to come down on those it doesn’t like,” McConnell warned.
“I mean, look at the way the administration has harassed the Koch brothers for example. Look at the way the Obama campaign went after one of the donors to the Mitt Romney super PAC by rifling through his divorce files. The potential for government intimidation is overwhelming, and so I don’t favor disclosure of 501c4’s.”