by Rossputin | 5:51 am, January 22, 2010 | Comments Off
In a 5-4 ruling yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States declared unconstitutional the McCain-Feingold prohibitions against running ads naming a candidate for federal office within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general. More importantly, the Court ruled that restrictions on political spending by corporations are prohibited as long as that spending is not coordinated with candidates.
While the ruling is theoretically beneficial to the ability of unions and corporations to get involved in spreading political messages and funding political advertising, in practice unions have found way to do these things where corporations haven’t. Therefore, the ruling is much more important for corporations than for unions, and we can expect tens of millions of dollars in corporate money to be spent in future election cycles.
What is remarkable at the ruling is not that it came down the right way, nor even that it was predictably a 5-4 vote, but that it was it was necessary. The fact that any Supreme Court ever upheld these First Amendment-destroying restrictions on free speech was remarkable.
Prior so-called logic was that corporations had a lot of money, so their influence would “distort” campaigns and that such distortion was inherently corrupting. The argument was that even the appearance of corruption or the possibility that spending might possibly lead to corruption was enough to quash political speech rights…the precise type of speech which the Founders most intended to protect with the First Amendment.
FINALLY, someone saw through the corruption inherent in that argument, with Justice Anthony Kennedy writing in his majority decision that “No sufficient governmental interest justifies limits on the political speech of nonprofit or for-profit corporations.”
Kennedy added “When Government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought. This is unlawful… The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves.”
Duh. Are you really telling me there are 4 Justices who don’t understand this basic tenet of freedom? Now THAT is a threat to our nation which makes the threat of Barack Obama look minuscule.
The official name of McCain-Feingold is the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, but may of us call it the Incumbent Protection Act. While the restriction on corporations spending money on political advertising is clearly the more important part of yesterday’s ruling, the other half of the ruling, the restrictions on being able to run ads naming a candidate for federal office within a certain time frame before an election have always struck me as particularly egregious, and as a part of BCRA which James Madison would have found particularly odious. Keep in mind that incumbents tend to have a record which can be analyzed (and attacked) where challengers frequently have much less of a record. Therefore, restrictions against naming a candidate has a profound benefit for an incumbent. I’m particularly pleased that the Supreme Court tossed out that provision of BCRA.
While this ruling may benefit Republicans more than Democrats (as would seem likely given the horrified reaction by Democrats and unions) this case is not fundamentally about political parties. It’s about freedom. Those who oppose this ruling should be seen for what they are: enemies of liberty and of truly fundamental American rights.
In that vein, it must be noted that Democrats are already preparing legislation to, in the words of First Amendment murderer-in-chief Russ Feingold, “pass legislation restoring as many of the critical restraints on corporate control of our elections as possible.”
The First Amendment be damned! We have incumbents to protect!
What will be particularly interesting is how John McCain reacts to this ruling once he’s had some time to think about it. His first reaction was rather muted, although he did say he was disappointed with the ruling. His signature legislative achievement has been properly decimated, but one must wonder whether these years of seeing the negative unintended consequences of the law has caused him to reconsider any of it. Most likely, that is a far too optimistic view and he will work again with Feingold to attack your liberty. We’ll soon see, as the Democrats want to try to muzzle corporations and protect incumbents again as soon as possible. I would note that the current political situation, with many Democratic incumbents and probably hundreds of large corporations with serious buyers’ remorse for having supported Barack Obama, leaves the Democrats desperate to reimpose the restrictions overturned by the Supreme Court yesterday.
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