By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Twin bills in the Alabama House and Senate would severely limit the First Amendment and the spirit of Citizens United, by limiting funds raised or spent on campaigns and issues.
SB356 and HB404 Sponsored respectively by Sen. Arthur Orr and Rep. Mike Jones would, “regulate the disclosure, raising, and spending of money to influence elections and governmental actions.”
Alabama’s own Shaun McCutcheon, a hero to many in the State and nation, fought the FEC over campaign giving and won in the 2014 US Supreme Court ruling “McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission,” believes full disclosure is right, but to limit how much money can be raised or spent is unacceptable.
“There are three areas here. There is disclosure, spending and then raising money. I would say the disclosure is a good idea makes things work better,” said McCutcheon. “But we need to get away from any kind of limits especially on raising money…so I would not be for any limits or regulation of raising money or spending. Also, I think that would be unconstitutional. It would be outside of the scope of the First Amendment.”
These vague bills call for a amendment to the State’s 1901 constitution, under the guise of the people’s right to know. But, whose speech would be restricted, and how, is left to some future action by a legislature whose leaders have used dark money on a regular basis.
“As you know my case was utilized in about 20 states to strike down state aggregate limit laws,” said McCutcheon. “That has already happened across the country. So, I don’t know what limits they could put out there in terms of aggregate limits that would not be struck down pretty immediately because the ruling applies to states.”
The bills claim to, “advance democratic self-government and political equality.” But McCutcheon, doesn’t see how limiting free speech advances self-government.
“I disagree with anyone attempting to undermine the Constitution or threaten Free Speech,” said McCutcheon. “I have consistently advocated that more private money in the political process greatly benefits the public debate.” He further said, “Any attempt by government officials to limit political messages from private citizens should be thwarted as it is a threat to the First Amendment.”
Sen. Orr could not be reached before deadline.