High Court blasts hole through McCain-Feingold campaign law

In a clear, straight-forward and constitutionally-based opinion , the US Supreme Court yesterday struck down a major portion of the 2002 “Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act” (more commonly referred to by the names of its two primary sponsors in the Senate, “McCain-Feingold”).  The 5-4 majority opinion, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, voided the law’s ban on corporations paying for “electioneering communications,” such as movies, newspaper ads, and the like, that support or oppose candidates. 

The plaintiff in this historic case was the Washington, DC-based, grass-roots advocacy organization, Citizens United, which in early 2008 was prepared to spend its corporate money to advertise and distribute a movie critical of then-primary presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (Hillary:  The Movie).  Because it feared the government would bring criminal charges against it if it actually spent money for this purpose (which the government is empowered to do under McCain-Feingold), Citizens United sought to have the federal district court declare the law to be an unconstitutional restraint on the exercise of its First Amendment rights.

Yesterday’s High Court opinion began where such a constitutional analysis ought to begin, by declaring the obvious – that political speech and money spent in furtherance of promoting and disseminating political speech is in fact protected by the First Amendment.  The Court then correctly noted that historically and legally, corporations do enjoy First Amendment rights to free speech; and that the federal campaign law criminalizing the corporate act of simply using its lawful monies to disseminate lawful political speech, is in fact an unlawful restraint of protected speech.

The Court also struck down the notion embedded in previous decisions empowering the government to restict corporate speech, that simply because a corporation funds political speech, it is necessarily “corrupt” or provides the “appearance of corruption” of the political process.

There are other, odious provisions contained in the McCain-Feingold law that need to be striken down, but which were not presented to the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case.  Hopefully, the Court will so invalidate them in the near future.  But for now, we should all — regardless of where we stand on the political spectrum — rejoice in the fact that at least part of the muzzle placed on Americans by McCain-Feingold (which former President George W. Bush signed into law), has been removed.

163 comments Add your comment

Rational Person

January 24th, 2010
11:15 am

That “A Country Boy Can Survive” song is outstandingly stupid. The country boy survives because he uses pickup trucks and shotguns, things that come from the city.

gus

January 24th, 2010
4:04 pm

And as a citizen of this country I Halliburton cast my vote for….. um…. um …. i mean i cast my vote for a Cool commercial!…

Charlie Daniels

January 24th, 2010
9:07 pm

TO: UNRATIONAL PERSON
THE DIFFERENCE IN “A COUNTRY BOY” AND A”CITY BOY” IS WHAT THE SONG SAYS……..
YOU WON’T MAKE A COUNTRY BOY RUN.
TAKE WHAT IS HIS AND WATCH WHAT HAPPENS.
THAT SHOTGUN HE MAY HAVE BOUGHT(AND NOT STOLE) FROM THE CITY IS PROTECTION HE WILL USE TO DEFEND HIMSELF AND HIS FAMILY.
HE CAN ALSO LIVE OFF THE LAND, GROW HIS OWN FOOD,HUNT AND FISH.
PEOPLE LIKE THAT MADE THIS COUNTRY WHAT IT ONCE WAS.
HONEST, HARD WORKING AMERICANS WHO STOOD UP FOR WHAT THEY BELIEVED IN.
MORE PEOPLE NEED TO DO THE SAME , ESPECIALLY IN THESE TIMES.
COME TRY AND TAKE MY GUNS. HAVE TO PRY THEM OUT OF MY COLD DEAD HANDS,SIR.
GO GET A LIFE.AND BUY YOURSELF A PICK-UP TRUCK.
YOU MIGHT FIND IT RTDES BETTER THAN THAT “HOOPTY” YOU TOOL AROUND IN.

Rational Person

January 24th, 2010
11:42 pm

Hey, Bob, the African American-oriented news source The Root just named you as one of the 30 blackest white folks they know. Hope you feel honored.

Rational Person

January 24th, 2010
11:45 pm

Well, person who usurps Charlie Daniels’ name, I have owned two pickups, I grew up in the country, and I currently tool around on a motorcycle when the weather is nice. Other times, I drive my hybrid because I care something about the world I live in.

I have a life, and I’m not obsessed with protecting myself from those evil other people who actually don’t exist.

Diane Nolan

January 25th, 2010
10:12 am

Finding that you support the corporate usurpation of individual rights, I’m sorry that I voted for you. You are obviously not the Libertarian I supposed you were.

Hank Williams Jr.

January 25th, 2010
7:48 pm

TO UN-RATIONAL FOOL…..
TAKE YOUR CROTCH-ROCKET TO THE GREAT CITY,SEE HOW IT FEELS TO HAVE A PISTOL STUCK UPSIDE YOUR HEAD(LIKE I HAD HAPPEN) IN BROAD DAYLIGHT ON JONESBORO RD. SOUTH OF DOWNTOWN. I ALSO GUESS YOUR MOTORCYCLE RUNS ON WATER.
TOOL YOUR SELF TO THE RURAL AREAS AND SEE IF YOU GET MUGGED.
DIFFERENT BREED OF PEOPLE, KIN SIR.
YES, SAD TO SAY….. THOSE EVIL PEOPLE DO EXIST .
GET YOUR IGNORANT HEAD OUT OF THE SAND.

What Me Worry

January 25th, 2010
10:28 pm

McCain-Feingold was written to protect incumbents.

You don’t honestly think corporations main method of affecting legislation is through adds do you? There are these people who get paid by businesses to go to D.C. and talk to politicians. I think they are called something like lobby-something. And if they wanted to appeal to the American people through advertising they had more of reason to give their money directly to a candidate to boost their ad campaign.

It also prevented individuals from coming together and pooling their resources to try and effect political change. People hear corporation and the knee jerk reaction is its bad. Mostly the corporations it affected were grassroots nonprofits organized for a poloticial purpose.

I tired of long drawn out campaigns, I sick of all the advertising during elections and it will probably get worse. But I think it is wrong of politicians to cynically use this sentiment to prevent political speech before elections. It only helps the ones already in office stay in office.

Robert Littel

January 26th, 2010
7:31 pm

If, as the corporate owned Supreme Court has ruled, that unlimited corporate spending on candidates is a free-speech question, then they are willing, too willing, to make it possible for a corporate head to march into any congressman’s (woman’s) office and state, “I have $5 million in my pocket that I can spend on your campaign, or I can spend it on your opponent.”, now how does anyone think this will not totally corrupt what little integrity is left in our system and turn us into a one party corporate system, run by and for the interests of a tiny ruling wealth driven elite bunch of self-serving thieves? Thomas Jefferson would be spinning in his grave over this if such a thing was possible.

[...] High Court blasts hole through McCain-Feingold campaign law In a clear, straight-forward and constitutionally-based opinion , the US Supreme Court yesterday struck down a major portion of the 2002 “Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act” (more commonly referred to by the names of its two primary sponsors in the Senate, “McCain-Feingold”). The 5-4 majority opinion, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, voided the law’s ban on corporations paying for “electioneering communications,” such as movies, newspaper ads, and the like, that support or oppose candidates. [...]

diane hamilton

January 27th, 2010
1:10 pm

W Smith makes such a strong and valid case against the McCain-Feingold campaign law that I felt my termperature rising as I aerd it. Is anyone (or ones) in the White House given the orders to read these blogs and show them to the President? I truly hope they do. dbh

What Me Worry

January 28th, 2010
4:18 pm

BTW leadership PAC’s are were politicians get their money from corporations. The following is from thegovmoniter.com.

“Of the $112 million that leadership PACs spent during the two-year campaign cycle that led up to the 2008 elections, less than half was passed on to candidates or party committees, according to a ProPublica analysis of Federal Election Commission data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. The rest paid for entertainment, administrative costs, fundraising and other categories that are so vague that it’s impossible to know for sure how the money was spent.

of the more than $750,000 that Chambliss’ PAC spent during the 2008 cycle — about $200,000 — went to help GOP candidates. The rest went for golf, including payments to resorts and transportation — a private jet on one occasion and limos on another.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada used his leadership PAC to entertain at Las Vegas casinos, including $32,985 at the Bellagio and $24,284 at Caesars. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York paid $32,760 to the New York Yankees and $14,490 to the New York Giants.

former Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon, who was defeated last fall for re-election, spent $91,004 at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. Former Rep. Thomas Reynolds [13] of New York spent $66,378 at Pebble Beach.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., used $64,500 from his PAC to commission a portrait of himself.

In March, the FEC’s six commissioners, three Democrats and three Republicans, sent Congress a list of legislative recommendations, including one to prohibit personal use of leadership PAC funds. Their letter went to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Joe Biden, in his capacity as president of the Senate. It also was sent to members of the House and Senate committees that oversee the FEC.

So far, the FEC has gotten no response. ProPublica left messages at the offices of the speaker, majority leader and chairmen of the two committees seeking comment, but got no replies.

“I am not hearing anything being done on the legislative front on leadership PACs,” said Craig Holman, the legislative representative of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen.”

Heidi

February 7th, 2010
1:13 pm

I agree mostly with this law on principle, but I see a conflict. I believe (correct me if I’m wrong) that corporations with stockholders are mandated by law to only act in the interest of those stockholders (aka profit making). So a corporation would be forbidden under this law to do anything that may be unpopular with the public (aka their customer). So even though It’s morally and ethically right, it may be illegal for a corporation to fund an add supporting, for example: gay marriage, ending the war on drugs, ending the war in Afghanistan. Pretend we’re back in slavery days, and a corporation would be acting illegally if they supported ending slavery. I don’t think any of this is an excuse to bring back the insane laws in mccain feingold. If corporations are individuals with free speech, then they should be able to act in a way that may not benefit it’s bottom line.