Friday, January 22, 2010

SCOTUS defends free speech

The ruling yesterday (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission) struck down significant portions of McCain-Feingold. The provisions that were ruled unconstitutional prohibited corporations from spending money on political speech. Justice Scalia's comment exactly mirrors my own thoughts:
The Amendment is written in terms of “speech,” not speakers. Its text offers no foothold for excluding any category of speakers, from single individuals to partnerships of individuals, to unincorporated associations of individuals, to incorporated associations of individuals…Indeed, to exclude or impede corporate speech is to muzzle the principal agents of the modern free economy. We should celebrate rather than condemn the addition of this speech to the public debate.
It should be noted that while this 5-4 decision is being hailed as a “conservative” victory of sorts, the ACLU's brief agreed that the legislation should be struck down:
The broad prohibition on "electioneering communications" set forth in Section 203 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, violates the First Amendment, and the limiting construction adopted by the Court in WRTL is insufficient to save it." Accordingly, the Court should strike down Section 203 as facially unconstitutional and overrule that portion of McConnell that holds otherwise.
The only negative I find in this outcome is that the ruling was only 5-4, but then that was the same with Heller vs. DC. I find it amazing that basic principles of the constitution are hanging on by a single vote in the Supreme Court of the United States.

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