Public financing of elections would abridge freedom of speech and press

By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist

?Congress shall make no law ? abridging the freedom of speech, or of the? press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the? Government for a redress of grievances.?

This First Amendment, adopted on Dec. 15, 1791, is the most important part of? the Constitution. With free speech and press, we can be informed when government officials violate other parts of the Constitution. And we can inform others any way we can, and form organizations strong enough to either make them stop ? or vote them out of office.

Without the absolute right to freely speak, assemble and organize, a constitution is useless. The Soviet Union under the dictator Stalin had a? constitution that gave its citizens all sorts of rights. But anyone who reported violations of those rights or who tried to organize any opposition to the government was killed or sent to prison.

Last week Norm Cohen, my fellow columnist, wrote that he, and others with him on the left, want to ?take the money out of politics.? They include filmmaker Michael Moore and MSNBC commentator Dylan Ratigan.

They want us to lobby for a new amendment to our Constitution with these four provisions:

?All elections for president and members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate shall be publicly financed.?

That means the people who already run the government would force all of us to pay taxes to support their campaigns for re-election ? even if many of us despise them.

?No political expenditures shall be permitted in support of any federal candidate, or in opposition to any federal candidate, from any other source,?including the candidate. Nothing in this section shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.?

That means we would only have the right to share our political opinions with friends over the telephone or a cup of coffee. If we were to spend any of our own money to tell others how we feel by printing and mailing out leaflets, putting out signs, or paying for ads on radio, TV, or a newspaper, we could be arrested and fined as criminals. And the owners and managers of any newspaper, radio or TV station could also be punished or shut down.

?Nothing in this section shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the?press.?

Oh really? Would all newspapers be allowed to freely support or oppose? candidates just before the election, or just certain ?selected? newspapers?? Could candidates set up their own newspapers and mail them out to every voter before the election? Or would some new government agency issue licenses to only? those newspapers it found to be ?genuine?? Would a liberal government official give such a ?freedom of the press? license to a conservative talk radio host like me? Would liberals like Michael Moore (or conservatives like Citizens United) still be free to show movies that boost some candidates or trash others?? What about newsletters or websites by unions or other groups?

?Congress shall, by statute, provide limitations on the amounts and timing of? the expenditures of such public funds and provide criminal penalties for any?violation of this section.?

The president and each of the 100 U.S. senators and 435 members of Congress together spend more than a billion of our tax dollars each year on travel, mailing and personal staff members who do favors for voters and who get them to look good on every local TV station and newspaper so they can get re-elected. Would they agree to ?public? financing that would give their?challengers enough money to knock them out of office?

What happens when we take big corporate money out of politics? In 1978,? Republicans and Democrats pushed through state laws that forbid casino companies? and most casino employees from spending any money or doing anything else to? support or oppose any candidates or government officials in Atlantic City.

The people who paid 80 percent of the taxes had no voice in government, while? people who paid no taxes controlled it.

This gave Atlantic City one of the most corrupt, mismanaged and expensive local?governments in the country. It spends $216 million each year on its 39,558? residents. Its public schools spend $167 million each year ($20,875 per? student), but its high school is ranked by at the bottom 11? percent of New Jersey schools.

We need more people involved in political campaigns ? not more government? control over them.

(Reprinted from January 11, 2012 Current-Gazette Newspapers of Atlantic and Cape May Counties,

Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman appears on 92.1FM 8-9 a.m. Saturday. For? information see,? email
or? call (609) 927-7333 . Breakfast discussions are held 9:30-10:30 a.m. every? Saturday at the Shore Diner on Fire and Tilton roads in Northfield.

(Image source –

  • Seth Grossman

    Seth Grossman is executive director of Liberty And Prosperity, which he co-founded in 2003. It promotes American liberty and limited constitutional government through weekly radio and in-person discussions, its website, email newsletters and various events. Seth Grossman is also a general practice lawyer.

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