Constitution Day discusses free speech and politics

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“Think your congress is the best money can buy now?” Assistant professor Dr. Jonathan Euchner said.  “Well you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Western marked the observance of Constitution Day by holding a panel discussion between two of Western’s own political scientists, professor of political science David Steiniche and Assistant Professor of Political Science Jonathan Euchner. The day’s discussion was titled, “Constitutional Perversion? Money, Free Speech and American Politics.”

Students gathered in the Kemper Recital Hall on Friday, Sept. 16 to participate in the annual Constitution Day events at Missouri Western. The event was open to all students and the public.

The Constitution Day discussion opened with assistant professor of political science Dr. Edwin Taylor acting as master of ceremonies and delivering introductory remarks. Taylor provided background for the day’s discussion.

“[The Constitution] is best understood as a living document,” Taylor said.  “One of the primary challenges facing the constitutional world today is the relationship that has evolved between money in U.S. politics and free speech.”

Taylor provided a comparative perspective while outlining the context of a situation that is an increasingly hot button issue as presidential campaigning begins for the elections of 2012.

“Does the Supreme Court Ruling in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case that was recently decided pervert democracy and the political rights of citizens as provided in the U.S. Constitution?” Taylor said.

Euchner and Steiniche represented two sides of a hotly contested issue in current politics.

Euchner opened up the discussion and represented those that oppose the recognition of corporations as individuals capable of making campaign contributions. Euchner specifically took aim at last year’s Citizens United ruling, asserting that it was a constitutional perversion to recognize corporations as individuals endowed with rights.

“Our democracy is not for sale to the highest bidder,” Euchner said.

Steiniche upheld that a corporation’s right to donate money to campaigns was a right upheld by the First Amendment. He pointed out that the First Amendment protected freedom of speech while neither excluding corporations or limiting the right to individuals.

“Free speech for individuals includes groups, since groups are simply collections of individuals,” Steiniche said. “Which according to the First Amendment, have the right to assemble and thus implicitly the right of speech. For what else is the purpose of legal assembly.”

Political science major Micah Burrow attended the day’s events because of a personal interest in hearing the discussion. Burrow encourages other students to become informed as well.

“People need to realize that if they don’t do anything and they’re apathetic that nothing is going to happen to benefit them,” Burrow said. “Apathy doesn’t get you anywhere, and you can’t complain about it when you aren’t saying anything about it.”

The event concluded with a question and answer session between the panel and audience members. Taylor described it as opening it up “Oprah-style.”

“It’s your voices that are most important,” Taylor said. “Many of you sit in our classes everyday and listen to us talk for 50 minutes or an hour and 20 minutes. It’s our hope that we can hear your voices as you ask these well-learned folks some questions about this discussion.”

The Constitution Day events were sponsored by the economics, political science and sociology department.

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