Tampa (CNSNews.com) – Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said President Barack Obama – a former constitutional law professor – and other Democrats don’t believe in free speech, in response to the president’s call for a constitutional amendment to curb political campaign spending.
“I actually took an oath to defend the Constitution,” Johnson told CNSNews.com. “The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to free speech. I believe deeply in that. The problem with Democrats, the problem with President Obama, they really don’t believe in free speech.
“They want to limit certain individual rights to be able to participate in the political process. I believe every American has the right to participate in that process to petition their government. It’s right there in the First Amendment,” Johnson said.
He added, “The president is supposed to be a constitutional scholar. He ought to read it every now and again.”
Johnson defeated Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold in 2010, who was the co-sponsor along with 2008 Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona. This year, the Republican Party platform calls for the full repeal of the McCain-Feingold law in light of the landmark Supreme Court rulings in the cases of Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission and Wisconsin Right to Life vs. FEC.
The high court in these cases lifted restraints on political speech, allowing outside groups to spend money on elections as long as they do not donate directly to a candidate’s campaign. The ruling overturned much, but not all, of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act.
On Wednesday, during an online chat on the website Reddit, Obama suggested that the Constitution be amended to restrict political donations.
“Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn't revisit it),” Obama wrote. “Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change.”
Though the provision restricting outside groups from spending on elections was struck down in the Citizens United ruling, some of the law’s restrictions – such as individual contributions limits, disclosure requirements and disclaimer requirements – still exist.
The Republican platform says, “We oppose any restrictions or conditions that would discourage Americans from exercising their constitutional right to enter the political fray or limit their commitment to their ideals.
“As a result, we support repeal of the remaining sections of McCain-Feingold, support either raising or repealing contribution limits, and oppose passage of the DISCLOSE Act or any similar legislation designed to vitiate the Supreme Court’s recent decisions protecting political speech in Wisconsin Right to Life v. Federal Election Commission and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.”