Don & Cathy Hoffard
dchoffard at verizon.net
Thu Mar 26 18:56:22 PDT 2009
The first amendment includes freedom of speech and freedom to assemble and
are very important components in a democratic society.
The Supreme Court has defined freedom of assemble to mean (or include)
freedom of association and is the right of individuals to form a group or
organization and to allow them to promote their common interest. How does
this relate to democracy? This freedom includes the right of individuals to
form political parties. Thus the constitution did indirectly addressed the
existence of political parties. Political parties have a right under the
U.S. Constitution to form an association, to assemble (conventions), to
select a candidate, and to promote that person for public office (assuming
that public office is elected). You cannot take that right away from them.
You may not like political parties or "partisan politics" but I would hope
that you would support a person's individual freedom as defined under the
first amendment. They are called "political party" but really what they are
is a group of individuals supporting and promoting a common interest. I
strongly support an individual's first amendment right to assemble. That
includes the Communist Party, Socialist Party, and the Worker's Party. That
being said, there are some operational things (not their actual existence)
that I do not like about political parties (perhaps, too numerous to go into
Interest groups are also protected under the first amendment. They also have
a right to organize and to promote their common interest. I think everyone
would agree that they are included under the freedom of association (well at
least the U.S. Supreme Court does). Let me say, first, something nice about
interest groups. Most Congressmen (or Congresswomen) are lawyers, which is
an ok profession for a person making laws. But some of those laws relate to,
for example, nation healthcare, which most congressperson don't know squat
about. Before passing a law, I would hope my congressman would seek the
advice of those knowing something about the healthcare industry. For
example, nurses, doctors, hospital administrators, insurance companies, etc.
and even those receive health care. I would hope that he (in my case) would
listen to all interested parties ("Interest Groups") and then make the law
in the best interest of the nation. I think interest groups do provide a
value service in our democracy and they do have a right to promote their
common interest as defined under the first amendment.
The next democratic principle include free speech. Political campaigning is
a form of speech and is thus protected under the first amendment. A
candidate is free to speak in support of his/her election and free to
criticize his/her opponent. The courts have been "freer" in this type of
free speech than other types of speech (even allowing half truths, lying
about yourself, lying about your opponent). There is, perhaps, a good
reason for this "freer speech", because you do not want the courts deciding
(campaigning) in behalf of one candidate over other. In general the general
public has not wanted political speech filtered and have concluded that it
should be left up to the voters to judge the truthfulness of the candidates.
If you think it should be filtered then who do you think should do the
I have no problem with political parties, interest groups (or even
campaigning). Most entities (and candidates) get their "Political Power"
primarily from money. Entities do get some of their "Power" based on their
expertise, which I think is clearly appropriate. Do you think that the
National Rifle Association would have any clout if they could not make
contributions to candidates? I think our democracy is really up for sale to
the highest bidder. The problem we have is that the U.S. Supreme Court has,
in general, said that "money is a form of free speech". There is clearly a
trade-off between free speech (money) and voting rights (the concept of one
man-one vote). (see articles below). I come down on the side of voting
rights and that money is not really free speech. For example let us say we
have an auditorium filled with 10,000 people and we say that anyone is free
to speak their mind from the floor at anytime. But there are a few who can
afford a microphone with a load speaker and are given access to the stage.
The question I would ask, is that really "free speech" for everyone? In
effect if you have the money you have a lot more free speech and can be
heard, but if you do not have the money you can speak all you want but no
one will be able to hear you. Also, if you make a 5,000 dollars
contribution to a candidate you are in effect voting 51 times (assuming you
actually did vote). You could do a statistical analyses to determine how
many additional votes 5,000 dollars would generate. (I am assuming $100 = 1
vote). I'm sure most interest groups have a good idea on how many votes
their money will buy. Money clearly buys votes, i.e. you can vote as many
times as you can afford. It is clearly not right that someone would have 51
votes and others only 1 vote. I thought that the concept of "One man-One
vote" was the foundation of our democracy.
"So Much for Free Speech" by Robert J. Samuelson
"We've arrived at this juncture because it's logically impossible both to
honor the First Amendment and to regulate campaign finance effectively. We
can do one or the other -- but not both." But the court has rejected limits
on overall campaign spending by candidates, parties or groups. Limiting
spending, the court says, would violate free speech."
Claremont Institute - by Tom West
On the subject of Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.
"Imagine the shock of the Founders if they were here to see that government
was heavily into the business of banning private citizens from pooling their
fortunes to publicize their opinions about candidates for elections"
National Voting Rights Institute - by John Bonifaz
"...we will continue to press forward with our work across the country
challenging the current campaign finance system as a barrier to our
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