, Salem, MA


October 5, 2012

Limiting political spending on ballot


“I fled that country for precisely the reason that I could not speak freely,” he said. It’s the contrast in America that inspires his devotion to the Bill of Rights, including the prohibition “Congress shall make no law .... abridging the freedom of speech.” “I take those rights very seriously and consider them very precious.”

All this began with the McCain-Feingold Act, passed by Congress in 2002, and designed to limit the ability of corporations and unions to make donations to political campaigns, particularly in the month prior to a presidential election. In 2009 an appeal to the Supreme Court by a group called Citizens United, an organization stymied prior to the 2008 election in their efforts to show a movie critical of Hillary Clinton, convinced a narrow majority of justices that speech emanating from a corporation could not be limited in this way any more than speech from an individual.

“I said, ‘That’s crazy,’” recalls Driscoll. “Corporations are not people and are not entitled to the rights of human beings.”

Opponents of the decision have since launched the effort to undo it via a Constitutional amendment. Driscoll has been devoting a lot of time to that convoluted and often frustrating process. “It got me so fired up I said, ‘That’s what I’m going to do next.’”

She’s stood in the freezing cold protesting, trying to urge state and federal leaders to act. With no previous background in politics, she’s also done a lot of study on the issue, learning the process as she goes. Challenge her with concerns over the impact on free speech, and she responds that they are addressed in the proposed amendment. It will, for example, exempt media corporations like the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

Meanwhile, Driscoll has grown confident that the crusade can succeed, “if we get the American people behind this.”

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