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First Amendment protects free speech regardless of its source

  • Published in Letters
To the editor,
As Ronald Reagan said to Jimmie Carter in their 1980 presidential debate; "There you go again" to highlight Carter's misrepresentations (some would say lies) concerning Reagan's policy positions and political record. Back in April, I responded to a letter criticizing the U. S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, which confirmed a 35 year old precedent that the inherent worth of speech to inform the public does not depend on the identity of the speaker, whether corporation, union, association or individual. Since that time there have been a series of letters in The Sun advocating a U.S. Constitutional Amendment to limit the free speech rights of corporations, including passing a symbolic act in the N.H. Legislature urging such a Constitutional Amendment.
Mr. Larry Spencer's letter is the latest diatribe in this area, because "if we continue to give corporations the same rights as people have, it will in the long run be the downfall of our democracy." Again, I suspect it is the content of the corporate political speech that Mr. Spencer doesn't like, but I bet it would be okay with him if a union used its members' dues to lobby politicians and influence legislation. As I said previously: The foundation of the First Amendment is that it protects and promotes the free exchange of ideas regardless of source and however personally disagreeable one may find the content of the speech.
Our founding fathers fought the Revolutionary War to bring freedom to America from British rule. They knew first hand about "unalienable rights" endowed by their Creator to which British rule was "destructive." The founding fathers distrusted monarchy and arbitrary rule and they were suspicious of government power. Accordingly, in the Constitution, they created a system of checks and balances between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government to "secure these rights" by "deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." The First Amendment is the cornerstone of securing and maintaining those rights. Not only does it protect the free exercise of religion, but it prohibits the abridgement of freedom of speech and the press. Where does the First Amendment say that only certain groups or individuals have free speech rights regarding political speech? Moreover, one only need look at the abuse of power by the IRS in investigating conservative organizations seeking tax exempt status, and the FBI in seizing phone records of the Associated Press and a Fox News reporter and his parents without proper notification and process, to realize the wisdom of the founding fathers and the confirmation of the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case. If Mr. Spencer and others had their way, The AP and organizations like American Crossroads would not have the right to criticize government at any level and could be investigated, harassed or possibly fined merely for the content of their "offending" political speech. "There you go again."
Richard R. Gerken