First Amendment

Government, 1070, Rights, and Public Funds

When is it legitimate to spend public funds? A story in today’s Arizona Daily Star starts out: “The state’s tourism industry has come up with the answer to fighting the boycotts over the new immigration law. Better public relations.” The law in question SB 1070 “Requires a reasonable attempt to be made to determine the immigration status of a person during any legitimate contact made by an official or agency of the state or a county, city, town or political subdivision (political subdivision) if reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the U.S.”

The image problem is perceived to harm Arizona industries. The Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association is putting up $30,000 for a PR campaign. That’s all well and good. However, the State of Arizona is contributing $250,000 of public funds to the campaign. That is not well and good in my opinion. I do not think public funds should be spent to aid private enterprise (are you reading Mr. President?). That includes building phantom hotels and sports stadiums. The framers of the Arizona Constitution apparently agree. Article IX, Section 7, the so-called gift clause, states plainly: “Neither the state, nor any county, city, town, municipality, or other subdivision of the state shall ever give or loan its credit in the aid of, or make any donation or grant, by subsidy or otherwise, to any individual, association, or corporation ….” Had Pima County obeyed this law we would not now be stuck with the mortgage and maintenance costs of Tucson Electric Park, now that major league baseball has abandoned Tucson due to municipal largesse of other cities.

Another nit to pick. An Op-Ed in the Star this morning, written by the First Amendment Center, urges us to celebrate the First Amendment on our Nation’s birthday, as well we should. However, a sentence in the article gave me pause: “The five freedoms guaranteed there gave Americans the right to speak out against injustice, to report about inequality, to protest and petition, and to draw strength from freedom of faith.”

What’s wrong with that? Maybe is was just a rhetorical error, or lazy thinking, or, more ominously a reflection of philosophy. The problem I have with that statement is the word “gave.” Thomas Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence, wrote “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…” The First Amendment does not “give” us the “five freedoms,” We had those already. The First Amendment prohibits the government from denying us those freedoms. The distinction is a matter of who is the servant and who is the master.