'Money is not speech'

The late President Gerald Ford chose well when he selected John Paul Stevens to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1975.

The former justice today provided proof of President Ford’s wisdom.

Justice Stevens went to the Senate today and told senators that “money is not speech,” and that anonymous unlimited campaign donations harm the democratic process.

Good for you, Mr. Justice.


Stevens, in a rare appearance by a former court justice before a congressional committee, said: While money is used to finance speech, money is not speech. Speech is only one of the activities that are financed by campaign contributions and expenditures. Those financial activities should not receive precisely the same constitutional protections as speech itself. After all, campaign funds were used to finance the Watergate burglary, actions that clearly were not protected by the First Amendment.”

At issue is whether unlimited campaign donations give rich donors greater access to power than average folks, such as, you know, you and me. Stevens said “yes.”

Billionaires are giving huge amounts of money to Democrats and Republicans alike. They are hiding behind the anonymity that recent Supreme Court decisions give them.

At the very least, there needs to be full disclosure of these donations. The public needs to know who’s giving the money. Citizens deserve to understand their motives for giving it and what they perhaps expect in return for those enormous cash gifts.

A better solution would be to limit those donations to reasonable amounts.

What is so un-American about leveling the playing field and giving all interested voters a shot at influencing those who would seek to lead our country?

As the Huffington Post reports: “Recent Supreme Court rulings have permitted individuals and corporations to write unlimited checks to independent political committees, while other groups can accept cash and disclose the donors’ identities months or years later, if ever.”

Mitt Romney said famously during the 2012 Republican primary presidential campaign that “Corporations are people too.” Actually, they are not. They are juggernauts that are able to trample the political process.