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When Money Talks -- The High Price of "Free" Speech and the Selling of Democracy

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 , 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.

Derek Cressman has worked professionally to strengthen campaign finance laws since 1995 as Director of the State PIRG's Democracy Program and Vice President for States with Common Cause. He ran for California Secretary of State in the June 2014 primary.


When Money Talks offers:

  • 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.