In the continuing debate about just how much speech can be restricted in the name of campaign finance reform, the FEC has just given Citizens United a victory, in this case allowing it a press exemption for some of its media productions.
It seems odd that so many argue that restricting the money, or its sources, which makes dissemination of speech possible is somehow not restricting free speech.
Elgin Husbheck, Jr. commented on the logical problems with campaign finance reform in Preserving Democracy (p. 112 & xxx) of the forthcoming paperback edition:
In this discussion I have focused on religion, but pretty much the same thing has happened in many other areas. For example the Free Speech clause was originally intended to protect political speech. Not only has it been greatly extended to include things like child pornography, but now this has been turned on its head to the point that political speech is about the only speech the government can control and limit. (p. 112)
But rather than abandon this approach as a failure, the push in the late 1990s was to even further expand campaign finance reform laws with a new bill sponsored by Senators McCain and Feingold. Proving that the failure of planning and control only produces more planning and control, not only did the McCain-Feingold bill impose a whole new layer of controls, it took the unprecedented step of attempting to limit political speech 90 days prior to an election. Even many politicians who voted for the bill believed that such a limit on free speech was clearly unconstitutional, and they expected the Supreme Court to toss out those limits.
In late 2003, however, the court surprised a lot of people and upheld McCain-Feingold, including the limits on political speech 90 days before an election.172 While there was a lot of celebrating among supporters of the bill, it did not last long. (p. 166)
At least at the moment we are backing away from the worst aspects of this “reform” but there are those who are not happy with this new freedom of speech.
Cato@Liberty (deals with the earlier court case and congressional attempts to override, not the current FEC decision)
Mother Jones (discusses the way unions are exploiting the ruling and congress is looking at making different rules for unions than for corporations.)
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