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When Money Talks

The High Price of “Free” Speech and the Selling of Democracy

To be published by Berret Koehler Currents on January 11, 2016


When money talks, democracy walks.  Read this book to learn how we, the people, can take back our elections from the billionaires and overturn a Supreme Court ruling that is a gross misreading of our Constitution."
-- Robert B. Reich, Chancellor's Professor, University of California at Berkeley and former U.S. Secretary of Labor


Americans know that the corrupting influence of special interest money is destroying our democratic process. And now that the Citizens United decision has thrown out campaign spending limits as abridgments of free speech, they want to know what they can do about it. Derek Cressman gives us the tools, both intellectual  and tactical, to fight back.

Cressman points out that in fact there’s nothing inherently unconstitutional in limiting the amount of speech. We do it all the time—for example, cities control when and where demonstrations can take place, or how long people can speak at council meetings. Moreover, he argues that while you choose to patronize Fox News, MSNBC, the New York Times, or the Wall Street Journal, political advertising is forced upon you. It’s not really free speech at all—it’s paid speech. It’s not at all what the Founders had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment.

Cressman examines how courts have foiled attempts to limit campaign spending, explores what a constitutional amendment limiting paid speech should say, and explains how concerned citizens can use an overlooked political tool to help gain its passage. Seven times before in our history we have passed constitutional amendments to overturn wrongheaded rulings by the Court—there’s no reason we can’t do it again.

When Money Talks presents: 

  • New thinking: Cressman argues political advertising isn’t free speech, it’s paid speech and so shouldn't be subject to the same protections.
  • New tactics: Describes both what a constitutional amendment to limit money in politics should say, and an overlooked tactic voters can use to get it passed.


Foreword by Thom Hartmann

Introduction: The Crisis of Broken Politics

Part 1: Why We Must Fight

1 Enough Is Enough—How and Why We Have Limited the Duration, Volume, and Location of Speech

2 If Money Is Speech, Speech Is No Longer Free—The Difference between Paid Speech and Free Speech

3 Stupidity, Inequality, and Corruption—Three Good Reasons to Limit Paid Speech

4 Who Broke Our Democracy?—How Courts Have Struck Down Limits on Money in Politics

Part 2: Ready for Action?—Let’s Go

5 Repairing Our Republic—How the People Can Overturn the Court

6 Magic Words—What Should a Constitutional Amendment Say?

7 Instructions for Mission Impossible—How to Pass a Constitutional Amendment When Incumbents Don’t Want One

8 Halfway Home—We’re Further Along Than You Think

Epilogue by Miles Rapoport