Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Friday that the Obama administration is pursuing restrictions on political speech through whatever means possible, including bypassing Congress and the federal judiciary.
“What they haven’t been able to achieve through the courts or Congress, they’re already attempting to achieve through regulations,” McConnell said in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute.
He quoted Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod’s comments from earlier this week in New York, where he expressed his hope that the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on campaign-finance reform in the Citizens United case could be overturned after the election.
“I hope that one of the things we can do, when we win this election, is use whatever tools are available, up to and including a Constitutional amendment, to turn this back,” Axelrod said.
McConnell went on to list several actions the administration has taken to curtail political speech:
- September 2009: The federal government warned health insurers that mailing customers about the potential consequences of President Obama’s health reform plan may be illegal.
- April 2011: The White House acknowledged Obama was considering an executive order that would have required federal contractors to disclose political spending over $5,000. Business interests called it a “back door” attempt to silence the administration’s critics.
- March 2012: The National Organization for Marriage accused the Internal Revenue Service of leaking its confidential tax information after the gay-rights group Human Rights Campaign posted IRS documents stamped with the words “OFFICIAL USE ONLY” on its website. The documents revealed that Mitt Romney had donated to the National Organization for Marriage.
- April 2012: The Federal Communications Commission adopted a rule requiring broadcasters to post who buys political ads on their stations, how often they run, and what they cost on the FCC website. The rule passed on a 2-1 vote, with the sole Republican commissioner voting no. The rule is being challenged in court.
- June 2012: The IRS revoked the tax-exempt status of Emerge America, which works to train Democratic women candidates, effectively forcing the group to disclose its donors. Observers say the decision could foretell similar action against larger groups, including the conservative Crossroads GPS and the pro-Obama Priorities USA.
- June 2012: The FEC deadlocked on whether ads from the American Future Fund, a right-leaning political advocacy group, are subject to strict reporting rules. The three Democrat commissioners agreed with the Obama campaign, deciding that those rules should apply; the three Republican commissioners dissented.
McConnell said liberals have always faced an uphill climb in American politics, and as a result, many have resorted to “obscuring their true intent, pursuing through regulation and the courts what they can’t through legislation, or muzzling their critics.”
“My own view has always been that if you can’t convince people of the wisdom of your policies, then you should come up with some better arguments. But for all its vaunted tolerance, the political left has consistently demonstrated a militant intolerance for dissent,” he said. “The minute we allow ourselves to be convinced that some people stand outside the protections of the First Amendment, we’re all in trouble.”