Rep. Jim McGovern is the champion of the People’s Rights Amendment, which shows that some people are so violently opposed to the Citizens United ruling that they would be willing to give the government sweeping power to censor speech, political or otherwise. This Pandora’s box of an amendment states:
Section 1. We the people who ordain and establish this Constitution intend the rights protected by this Constitution to be the rights of natural persons.
Section 2. People, person, or persons as used in this Constitution does not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities established by the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state, and such corporate entities are subject to such regulation as the people, through their elected state and federal representatives, deem reasonable and are otherwise consistent with the powers of Congress and the States under this Constitution.
Section 3. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit the people’s rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, and such other rights of the people, which rights are inalienable.
This is playing with Constitutional fire, designed to appeal to gullible citizens who don’t understand how the Constitution limits government power and the danger of making simple-minded fixes. Prof. Eugene Volokh, an expert on Constitutional law, writes,
“So just as Congress could therefore ban the speech of nonmedia business corporations, it could ban publications by corporate-run newspapers and magazines — which I think includes nearly all such newspapers and magazines in the country (and for good reason, since organizing a major publications as a partnership or sole proprietorship would make it much harder for it to get investors and to operate). Nor does this proposal leave room for the possibility, in my view dubious, that the Free Press Clause would protect newspapers organized by corporations but not other corporations that want to use mass communications technology. Section 3 makes clear that the preservation of the “freedom of the press” applies only to “the people,” and section 2 expressly provides that corporations aren’t protected as “the people.”
“Congress could also ban the speech and religious practice of most churches, which are generally organized as corporation. It could ban the speech of nonprofit organizations that are organized as corporations…Congress could ban speech about elections and any other speech, whether about religion, politics, or anything else. It could also ban speech in viewpoint-based ways. State legislatures and local governments could do the same. All of them could seize corporate property without providing compensation, and without providing due process. All corporate entities would be stripped of all constitutional rights.”
Occupy protestors making such irresponsible proposals are one thing: they are permitted hyperbole in the pursuit of debate. A member of Congress being so ignorant regarding the importance of organizations, voluntary associations and legal entities having rights of speech and due process is far, far worse. It shows a lack of comprehension of the roots of American democracy, or a contempt for it, that seeks support by exploiting the ignorance of voters.
No competent Representative would make such a suicidal proposal, and no responsible Representative would support it. As a result, Rep. McGovern might be doing his country a service by sponsoring it. If it comes to a vote, the dimmest of the dim on Capitol Hill will have revealed themselves.