US Supreme Court disallows campaign spending limits
Chuck Schumer (D-NY): Free speech is un-American.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court struck down some longstanding restrictions on political advocacy spending.
In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that laws barring corporations from advocating explicitly for candidates and from having even issue ads run within 60 days of a general election are an encroachment on their freedom of speech.
As Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority opinion:
The government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether.
Gun rights advocacy groups have long chafed under the restrictions, particularly some from the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002. Particularly nettlesome were provisions inserted by late Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN), that extended restrictions on last-minute ads to even non-profit groups–Wellstone mentioned the NRA by name as one of the targets of his amendment.
. . . Wellstone pushed an amendment to extend McCain-Feingold’s ban on last-minute ads to nonprofits like “the NRA, the Sierra Club, the Christian Coalition, and others.” Under the Wellstone Amendment, these organizations could only advertise using money raised under strict “hard money” limits—no more than $5,000 per individual.
In the lead-up to passage of McCain-Feingold, the NRA raised the alarm about the problems with such legislation.
Campaign finance reform is not about big dollars influencing elections. It`s not about crooked politicians and a tainted process. It`s not about corruption. It is about who will control information to the electorate; with the big media and incumbent politicians having a total lock on speech, ideas and political thought in America.
It is about a television/radio blackout of truth, opinions and beliefs of individual Americans who pool their power by choosing to belong to organizations such as NRA–which gives them the collective clout to reach millions of voters through paid issue advocacy
As might be expected, yesterday’s ruling drew a much more favorable reaction.
Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice president, said, “This ruling is a victory for anyone who believes that the First Amendment applies to each and every one of us. The majesty of free speech is that any American can roll out of bed and speak as freely as The New York Times, NBC or politicians.
“One gun per month laws” are often described, by those of us on the gun rights advocacy side, as “rationing Constitutional rights.” Such a concept is, obviously, repugnant to those of us who believe that fundamental rights cannot legitimately be rationed out in dribs and drabs at government whim. Limitations on how much of one’s own money can be spent for political advocacy-and when it can be spent–constitute just that kind of rationing.
Reaction to the ruling was not, of course, universally one of approval. President Obama, for example, promised a “forceful response” (whatever that means–is he proposing the use of force?). Enthusiastic gun banners Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) have vowed to draft legislation that will somehow reduce the impact of yesterday’s ruling, without running afoul of it. There is even talk of a Constitutional amendment to strip corporations of the rights inherent to personhood.
This ruling, is, of course, more much more directly related to the First Amendment than to the Second. Still, the more tightly we, the people, hold on to the first three boxes of freedom, the less likely we’ll need to reach for the fourth. That should be seen by everyone to be a good thing.
More from Gun Rights Examiners
Atlanta: Ed Stone | Austin: Howard Nemerov | Boston: Ron Bokleman | Charlotte: Paul Valone | Cheyenne: Anthony Bouchard | Chicago: Don Gwinn | Cleveland: Daniel White | DC: Mike Stollenwerk | Denver: Dan Bidstrup | Fort Smith: Steve D. Jones | Grand Rapids: Skip Coryel | Knoxville: Liston Matthews | Los Angeles: John Longenecker | Minneapolis: John Pierce | National: Dan | Phoenix: Douglas Little | Seattle: Dave Workman | St. Louis: Kurt Hofmann | Wisconsin: Gene German