It seems the Supreme Court is going to revisit campaign finance reform. A group called Wisconsin Right to Life is arguing that banning free speech is unconstitutional because it was prevented from sponsoring TV ads in 2004.
Even the Los Angeles Times now can see where money might be speech. Its editorial, Liberate Free Speech, offers a bunch of caveats, indicating it still does not understand the underlying principle. No one expects the LAT to be able to understand the First Amendment. They are starting to detect a threat to newspapers.
… if the court isn’t willing to go back to the drawing board, Congress should. An advertisement praising or criticizing a politician * even one seeking reelection * has more in common with the endorsement editorials that appear on this page than it does with the campaign contributions (in hard or soft dollars) that have received only minimal 1st Amendment protection from the courts.
The “bright line” that needs to be drawn is the one between financing someone else’s message and articulating your own.
That “bright line” seems a little blinding to the Times. The “bright line” that needs to be drawn is, of course, between free speech and restricted speech. It matters not whether I choose to finance the message of the NRA or of the ACLU while also articulating my own; or if they want to fund each other’s. I don’t care that George Soros does it personally and with impunity. The entirety of McCain-Feingold needs to be assigned to the ash heap of history, not just pieces the LA Times finds objectionable because it cuts too close to their own privilege.
The LA Times had a different take in 2003:
Quite simply, the [Washington] Post editorialist declared, the decision represented the laudable culmination of “years of Supreme Court precedent” and guarantees that “American democracy is not defenseless and that purchased access to the powerful is not protected by the right of free speech.”
Similar comments dominated the editorial pages of America’s great dailies, with many encouraging Congress and the federal courts to look for new ways of expanding regulation of political speech in the interest of preventing the appearance of an alleged evil. The decision, claimed the Los Angeles Times, “signals an overdue recognition of the power and the danger big money poses in federal elections and public policy . . . the high court’s clear affirmation of the measure, shifting the balance a bit away from free-speech absolutism, should provide the momentum for further reform.”
Further reform, indeed.