Statement to the Committee
NJOCU’s Mark Doenges spoke and answered questions before the New Jersey State Senate’s State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee in June of 2012. The following was his prepared statement.
Hello, honorable state legislators and committee members. I’ve been asked by the people who support Senator Van Drew’s bill before you today to offer some of my thoughts on this issue.
Loudness. If I were to speak to the committee today at 140 decibels, it would drown out every other voice in the room. No one could hear anything but me. I want you to understand that those of us who see problems stemming from the Citizens United decision and the role of money in politics, do not want to silence any views or curtail the freedom of speech. We don’t come here today with specific legal language for US Constitution, nor do we think that every idea in the Supreme Court’s decision is without merit. Certainly, the realities of campaign laws and reforms are complex.
But Loudness is not a right. If I spoke at 140 decibels, I would not only silence everyone else in this room, I would deafen them. Permanently. Forget about telling me to be civil, because I wouldn’t hear you either. If I were in your neighborhood, or on a street corner, or in the halls of Congress, I would not merely be shushed, I would be arrested. And the laws of the land would uphold that arrest.
People throughout America can tell that money is yelling. My suspicion is that even the sliver of people who don’t fully understand or admit it yet, still know it’s true. Americans aren’t asking for certain ideas to be censored or for certain people or modes of communication to be limited. We are simply saying that we all ~ we the people ~ have a right to free speech. And our rights are being trammeled.
We also fundamentally disagree with the notion that corporations are people. Yes, they have shareholders. But they also have management, employees and customers. So who then is this person? Corporations in fact are artificial entities chartered, as state legislators would understand very well, by State statutes. The word corporation does not appear in the U.S. Constitution anywhere.
Having said this, I want to make clear that this bill says nothing ill of corporations or of their role in society. This bill is certainly not anti-business. Indeed it is pro-business. Small business owners are right there among the people in this country who are saddened to see money treated as speech. They may already be competing with larger, louder companies in the marketplace. Now they find they are expected to compete in politics? That is not their mission. Small business owners argue that money in politics is the foundation of cronyism, and that small businesses are likely losers. When polled, two thirds of small business owners stood against the Citizens United decision and nearly 9 out of 10 viewed the role of money in politics negatively. The last I looked, 70 percent of America’s jobs were in small businesses. It is the engine that underpins our economy.
Loudness. It is not a right. In commerce it may be the spoils of victory, but in a democracy we want to be able hear what is being said. We want the right of free speech to endure for ALL. The simple, inescapable truth is that right now, Americans are going deaf. They are losing faith in the institutions of their governance. They’re losing faith in our elections. They are losing faith in our future. But understand that people have not yet lost their voice. We are here today to be heard. Join us and a growing national movement in taking this issue to the US Congress for remedy. These are critical times in our country’s history and we cannot afford a broken democracy. This is NOT a backburner issue upon which we should hem and haw. This is not a partisan issue with an ‘us’ and a ‘them.’ This is about the voice of the people. I ask you to join it.