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Biden wants to amend Constitution to limit political speech

Terence P. Jeffrey on

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos -- whom National Public Radio called in December "by far the wealthiest person on the planet" -- used a small sliver of his vast fortune in 2013 to buy The Washington Post.

In 2020, this newspaper endorsed Joe Biden for president.

"Mr. Biden's competence and honor are more important in this cycle than any particular stand on any particular issue," the Bezos paper said in a Sept. 28 editorial.

Did it have a right to make this endorsement?

The First Amendment says: "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." Therefore, the answer is yes.

But under a constitutional amendment Biden is proposing, the question could become: How much, if anything, could the Bezos paper -- or any other organization -- spend on speech that is for or against a politician?

 

"In 1997, and many years afterward," says a page on Biden's campaign website, "he co-sponsored a constitutional amendment that would have limited contributions as well as corporate and private spending in elections and prevented the damage caused by the Supreme Court in Citizens United."

"Toward those ends, Biden will: Introduce a constitutional amendment to entirely eliminate private dollars from our federal elections," says the Biden website.

"Biden believes it is long past time to end the influence of private dollars in our federal elections," it says. "As president, Biden will fight for a constitutional amendment that will require candidates for federal office to solely fund their campaigns with public dollars, and prevent outside spending from distorting the election process. This amendment will do far more than just overturn Citizens United: it will return our democracy to the people and away from the corporate interests that seek to distort it."

Biden's website links to the congressional webpage for Senate Joint Resolution 18 -- the constitutional amendment Biden co-sponsored back in 1997 (when it lost 38 to 61).

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