Assembly Speaker Robin Vos insists he’s a big fan of the First Amendment.
That’s what the Republican legislator from Racine County said to justify his belief that corporations, businesses, labor unions or anyone else should be able to spend as much money as they want on political campaigns.
The Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision, the one that declared that corporations have the same First Amendment rights as individual citizens, was spot on, the speaker declared as he and Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca engaged in a debate before a packed WisPolitics.com luncheon last week.
Barca had just declared that the biggest threat to American democracy was the court’s decision that money equals speech. The Kenosha Democrat added that it’s critically important to overturn the decision that opened the floodgates to unlimited spending in political races.
But a smug and confident Vos, cocksure that Scott Walker would be re-elected governor and the Republicans would continue to control the Legislature after Nov. 4, was having none of it. He also declared that not only should corporations be able to give, the so-called independent issue groups should be able to collaborate with a candidate’s campaign as well. (That’s currently illegal under Wisconsin law and its alleged violation by Walker backers is behind the controversial John Doe investigation.)
I’m a huge believer in the First Amendment, he declared, as if there’s no question that the Founding Fathers intended to include corporations in the Bill of Rights.
It was interesting to learn that Vos suddenly had such respect for the constitutional amendment authored by James Madison to protect minority views from “the tyranny of the majority.” (It’s apparently hard for Vos and the 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court to admit that the Founding Fathers only mentioned individual American citizens in their deliberations.)
Vos is the same guy, after all, who has been a consistent defender of secret legislative caucuses and was behind the move to forbid the Governmental Accountability Board from allowing online access to campaign contribution disclosure forms filed by legislators.
He was also one of the instigators of tough rules to limit demonstrations in the State Capitol during and after the protests in 2011, including prohibiting cameras and other recording devices in the Assembly balconies.
But when it comes to corporations-as-citizens, he’s suddenly a firm believer in that First Amendment.
Plain Talk: Robin Vos gets First Amendment religion