Why Is Al Franken Afraid of Free Speech?

Al Franken is a former comedian and television performer. He used to have a radio show, and he contributed to an oral history in which he described his own cocaine use. So one might expect him to be an advocate for free speech.

Instead, Franken appeared yesterday at a rally on Capitol Hill in support of the Udall bill to partially repeal the First Amendment. The Democrats’ proposal is sweeping: it would give Congress the power to limit spending and in-kind contributions in all federal elections. (For good measure, it would give state legislatures the power to do the same in state elections.) If the amendment were to pass, Congress could make it impossible to challenge incumbents by setting all spending limits at zero, or some other ridiculously low level. The proposal would also allow Congress to ban books or movies that it thinks might influence voters in the “wrong” direction, e.g., the latest film by Dinesh D’Souza. It is the most outrageous infringement of free speech that has been seriously proposed in the United States since the Alien and Sedition Acts.

Yesterday’s rally was typical Democratic astroturf. There were more reporters present than “demonstrators.” You can barely see Franken at the podium in this photo. Click to enlarge:

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Note the printed signs: “Get Money Out.” Whose money do you suppose paid for the signs? I have participated in a number of demonstrations, but never once have I had a printed sign.

These boxes supposedly contain petitions in support of the amendment restricting free speech. Ironically, each one bears the name of a Democratic Party “dark money” group:

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The ACLU has listed some of the implications of Franken’s anti-free speech amendment:

To give just a few hypotheticals of what would be possible in a world where the Udall proposal is the 28th Amendment:

• Congress would be allowed to restrict the publication of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s forthcoming memoir “Hard Choices” were she to run for office;

• Congress could criminalize a blog on the Huffington Post by Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, that accuses Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) of being a “climate change denier”;

• Congress could regulate this website by reform group Public Citizen, which urges voters to contact their members of Congress in support of a constitutional amendment addressing Citizens United and the recent McCutcheon case, under the theory that it is, in effect, a sham issue communication in favor of the Democratic Party;

• A state election agency, run by a corrupt patronage appointee, could use state law to limit speech by anti-corruption groups supporting reform;

• A local sheriff running for reelection and facing vociferous public criticism for draconian immigration policies and prisoner abuse could use state campaign finance laws to harass and prosecute his own detractors;

• A district attorney running for reelection could selectively prosecute political opponents using state campaign finance restrictions; and

• Congress could pass a law regulating this letter for noting that all 41 sponsors of this amendment, which the ACLU opposes, are Democrats (or independents who caucus with Democrats).

Such examples are not only plausible, they are endless.

Why would a guy like Al Franken, who made a career out of speech of which many people disapproved, suddenly become an opponent of free speech? Because he is running for re-election. The Democrats are in trouble, and they know it. Their only hope is to try to suppress information about the lousy job the Obama administration, and Democrats in the Senate, are doing. If they can “get money out of politics,” then voters will have to rely on newspapers and the evening news for information. Naturally, the Udall amendment wouldn’t affect those Democrat-dominated news sources:

Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress the power to abridge the freedom of the press.

Of course not: the press is solidly Democratic. They are only out to abridge the freedom of speech of ordinary Americans who want to participate in the political process.

Al Franken is running scared. You can contribute to his opponent, Republican Mike McFadden, here.

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