Unexpectedly Intriguing!
July 13, 2005

One by one, in part or in whole, each of the original ten amendments to the United States Constitution are being stripped of any consistent meaning by judges across the U.S.

If there is a common element to the ongoing judicial destruction of the U.S. Bill of Rights, it is that the interests of government and public officials are being placed ahead of those of individuals. The clearest example of this trend toward statism is best seen in the recent Kelo v. City of New London case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which effectively gutted the fifth amendment's takings clause. Here the court found that the city officials of New London, Connecticut could force homeowners off their property through the government's power of eminent domain and then transfer the land to a private developer, all for no higher public use than that of potentially increasing the city's tax revenue. The Supreme Court Justices ruling in favor of the city government in the 5-4 decision include Steven Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter and John Paul Stevens.

Meanwhile, the first amendment's guarantee of the right of freedom of speech was most recently assaulted by a Thurston County Superior Court judge in Washington state just before Independence Day holiday this year. In this case, Judge Chris Wickham ruled that comments by Seattle-based radio talk show hosts related to a state ballot initiative were "in-kind" campaign contributions, and would be subject to reporting under the state's disclosure laws. Bill Virgin of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports the potential impact (links added):

The ruling has attracted attention beyond Washington's borders. "It is absolutely stunning in terms of the philosophical and theoretical questions it raises," says Michael Harrison, publisher of the talk-radio trade magazine Talkers; Harrison adds that he's not aware of a similar case elsewhere in the country.

In Harrison's view, if no money changed hands then there's no contribution. "Otherwise you can subject it to taxes, limits on contributions, all kinds of things that get in the way of free speech. To put a value on it is a very dangerous precedent."

More information about Judge Chris Wickham's ruling is available at Brian Maloney's Radio Equalizer blog.

In both these cases, the actions against what had previously been the established constitutional rights of individuals were filed or supported by government officials. In the Washington state decision, the city attorneys from Seattle, Auburn and Kent as well as the politically ambitious San Juan County prosecuting attorney sought the ruling. Each of these government bodies stand to benefit from opposing the "No New Gas Tax" initiative which would repeal recently enacted increases in Washington state's gas tax.

But these local governments are not the only beneficiaries. In reality, many of these officials are closely allied with major developers who also stand to reap the benefits from the largess of the state. In New London, the private developer who will demolish the existing home to build a new office park will gain substantially from the enterprise. Likewise, there are major developers who stand to benefit from the massive construction projects that would be funded through Washington's increased gasoline taxes. It's no accident that the local government officials and major developers stand side-by-side in these matters - many of the local officials gain substantial campaign contributions from their partnership with the developers.

Decisions such as these underscore the importance of the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court appointments. Without judges willing to stand for the rights of individuals against the state in cases such as these, we will be condemned to live under the rule of a predatory plutocracy - a government of, by, and for the interests of an elite government-campaign contributor complex.

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