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Pay to Play and the First Amendment

March 31, 2010 - John Stack

Sometimes, a topic comes up that defies reason. recently, Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) sent out a campaign letter, urging unions and such a pay-to-play plan. For a $50,000 donation, leaders would be assured of a seat on a Labor Advisory Council. In  exchange for the campaign contributions, the letter states, donors would be invited to "exclusive" meetings with Senate Democratic leaders and be involved in policy conversations around the party's campaign strategy.” What part of this doesn’t stink? Who believes this is just some perk like paying for a space flight? Does a donor expect that for $50,000 he isn’t going to get some say in the legislation at hand? Heck, if I spent $50 grand on access like this from my union treasury, I would expect some quid pro quo. Offering up opportunities to be in on policy and campaign strategy isn’t something people would pay for just to see how its done.


            Governor Paterson has come out to say this is an outrage, as has virtually all good government groups. Of course, the legislature’s ‘Ethics’ bill would not stop this practice. Governor Paterson’s version of an ethics bill probably doesn’t go nearly far enough, let alone be open for compromise. Of course, the GOP is not innocent, as they have a longstanding pay-to-play organization themselves, titled ‘Business Leadership Trust’.


            Funny how the court has ruled in favor of big corporation in dismantling years of laws to protect the sanctity of elections by allowing unlimited soft money for candidates. The tool the Court has used? The First Amendment, the right to free speech. This is a right that most Americans hold up as a freedom that they would never allow to be abridged. Or would they?


            Sarah Palin was in the news again last week. She attended a speech with John McCain to help his faltering campaign. During her speech, a protester shouted out that McCain had sold out the US. Pain made some comments about the protester which were in good taste. The crowd though, was not so forgiving. A number of people in the crowd roughed him up, threw him against the wall and kicked his feet out from under him. He was then forcibly removed from the rally, where he was dragged outside and handcuffed. Watching the video, you wonder exactly what it is that this guy was removed for, and why he was subsequently handcuffed and arrested. Outside, the police held him on the ground, with some plainsclothes – who knows who- who turn him over to police. Its nice to hear the sweet girl tell him why he is being arrested (hint-it rhymes with the French word for mouth).After he was removed, Palin made a ironic statement saying John McCain had spent 5 ½ years in a POW camp so that the protester could have the freedom to say what he did. Of course, completely ignoring that he was just deprived of said right! The even more ironic sounds were the rallyers shouting 'USA!USA!' 

            In 2007, a protester was at a John Kerry function. He was speaking at a mic at the rally. Police there wrestled him down and later tased him twice. This, again for someone using there constitutionally guaranteed right of free speech. Why exactly were either of these guys even approached by police? Both were young men about 20. Last year, a bunch of tea party protesters would scream and block out what a number of Democratic Senators were saying, when they went around the country to explain the health care reform bill. Many have come to the support of the police. These were law abiding citizens who by all accounts made no threats of any physical violence or anything of the like. How would the supposed law and order crowd have felt if some 65 year old veteran at a rally was shouting down Chuck Schumer and the police wrestled him to the floor and tased him? I’m thinking not.

                       But, lets not confuse the issue like many have. I write this blog for the ADE, and I self censor. But, there is no constitutionally protected right that Peter Crowley has to let me write whatever I want. Peter has never censored me, and I am thankful we have such a great medium here to express my views. But, the ADE is a private enterprise, and the right to free speech does not mean I can write whatever I want. But, at a public rally, no protester, be they Democrat, Conservative or Libertarian be forcibly removed from the area by police for exercising there first amendment rights.





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