Supreme Court Cripples McCain-Feingold

The case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was all about, whether a citizens group could air a politically charged film days before the election. McCain-Fiengold specifically prohibits such actions. It was always thought that this was un-Constitutional, today it was ruled so. The film was an anti-Hillary film that was slated for showing before the Movie could not be shown on television right before the 2008 Democratic primaries under the McCain-Feingold Act.

The Supreme Court 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.

Here is a legal roundup from SCOTUSblog.com of the articles regarding the decision.

The Progressives are not going to like this one. After spending years and hundreds of millions of dollars, to get you to hate corporations and the fat cats that run them, this throws all that effort in the trash.  And the people who work for these corporations, what do they think?

In the past the courts have treated corporations as ‘people’ with the same rights as people had in the face of the Bill of Rights. And why not … corporations have a right to defend themselves against attack, disparagement and defamation that people have. And they have the right to campaign for anything is in their basic interest. And all they have to do is show ownership of those communications.

The WSJ picks it up from there:

A divided Supreme Court struck down limits on corporate political spending, overturning two precedents in a ruling likely to affect campaigning in the 2010 elections.President Barack Obama called the decision a victory for big oil, Wall street and other interests, and said he would work with lawmakers to craft a “forceful response.”

The ruling underscored the impact of former President George W. Bush’s two appointments to the court. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito joined the five-justice majority in ruling that a central provision of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance act violated the First Amendment by restricting corporations from funding political messages in the run-up to elections.

“The government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority in a 57-page opinion.

The ruling is extremely broad. This, from Justice Kennedy:

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.

The ACLU could not have said it better.

But such a statement cannot be limited to the role corporations play in political campaigns and issues. FCC rules prohibiting “wardrobe malfunction” broadcasts are also censorship, let alone the Fairness Doctrine, or the whole concept that broadcast licensees must operate in the public “fairness, social justice, interest, convenience, and necessity.” Equal time rules? Anti-obscenity laws? Required public interest programming? All go under the knife of the Supreme Court, with this ruling.

It also has bearing for the ‘so-called’ net neutrality, where corporations must treat all information the same … The ruling says they do not.

That’s particularly true because Justice Kennedy expressly says the medium of the message is irrelevant — TV, radio, newspapers, the Internet, all are protected:

Courts, too, are bound by the First Amendment. We must decline to draw, and then redraw, constitutional lines based on the particular media or technology used to disseminate political speech from a particular speaker.

That would seem to suggest that material you can find on the Internet — and I think you know what I’m referring to — would be equally protected on your TV screen or in the newspaper.  And — if carried to its logical conclusion — it throws out government rules about content that date to the Communications Act of 1934. You still retain the right to change the channel or not susribe to that programming, though.

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