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January 21, 2010

Supreme Court Overturns Ban On Corporate Political Speech And Part Of McCain-Feingold

Just released.

The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations may spend freely to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress, easing decades-old limits on their participation in federal campaigns.

By a 5-4 vote, the court on Thursday overturned a 20-year-old ruling that said corporations can be prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to pay for their own campaign ads. The decision, which almost certainly will also allow labor unions to participate more freely in campaigns, threatens similar limits imposed by 24 states.

...The justices also struck down part of the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill that barred union- and corporate-paid issue ads in the closing days of election campaigns.

Advocates of strong campaign finance regulations have predicted that a court ruling against the limits would lead to a flood of corporate and union money in federal campaigns as early as this year's midterm congressional elections.

Expect more throughout the day but my initial take is regardless of how the corporate decision cuts for one party or another, more freedom and more speech is generally good.

As for overturning the blackout period on issue ads...nice to see the Court realize the First Amendment doesn't have an expiration date. The idea that ads couldn't be run precisely at the time when most people are paying attention and the right of groups to promote their message was most important was a travesty and nothing more than legalized protection for the political class.

More:

The 5-4 decision
had Kennedy siding with Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito. "Wise Latina" Sonia Sotoymayor shockingly sided with the anti-free speech "liberals" (as not doubt would have Souter).

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the main opinion, which reads in part that there is "no basis for allowing the government to limit corporate independent expenditures."

"There is no basis for the proposition that, in the political speech context, the government may impose restrictions on certain disfavored speakers," he wrote. "The government may regulate corporate speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether."

...

"The notion that the First Amendment dictated [today's ruling] is, in my judgment, profoundly misguided,"(Justice John Paul) Stevens wrote for the others.

"In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant. Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it," he added.

Thankfully AMK's coin landed on the right side the day this case was decided.

Seems like a good time to take another shot at McCain-Feingold in general. Now that O'Connor is gone, SCOTUS might be willing to take another look at McConnell v. FEC. Any smart legal types know if there's a case out there that might fit the bill? If there isn't one, I'm sure there will be by the end of the month.


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posted by DrewM. at 10:58 AM

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