RICH DEAVER BLOG POST
"JOURNALISM AND THE LAW"
UPDATED POST 4/19/2010
THE ISSUE: Is it constitutional to limit a companies donation and is it a violation of free speech?
Recently the Supream Court stuck down McCain Feingold. Essentially the action by the court now allows cooperations to donate limitlessly to campaigns. Before it was not unusual for a large company like GE or AIG, in the world of politics to hide, launder or channel money to a candidate through other sources.
This was because it was illegal for large companies to flood money to one candidate or the other. This would, in theory present an unfair advantage to the candidates; and it is usually the one who raises the most money who wins.
The legal issue here with the 2002 McCain Feingold act is it limits free speech. It was argued that First Amendment’s most basic free speech principle — that the government has no business regulating political speech.
The court ruled on a very divided 5-4 vote and the dissenters opinion given by Justice Stevens said the majority had committed a grave error in treating corporate speech the same as that of human beings. Eight of the justices did agree that Congress can require corporations to disclose their spending and to run disclaimers with their advertisements, at least in the absence of proof of threats or reprisals.that allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace would corrupt democracy.
The majority's opinion stated “If the First Amendment has any force,” Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority, which included the four members of the court’s conservative wing, “it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.”
From a completely legal standpoint this was a correct decision. It is unconstitutional for the government to limit Political or any form of free speech as per the first amendment. the argument is however that this was going on anyway in the form of soft money contributions and PA C's.
"The ruling, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, No. 08-205, overruled two precedents: Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, a 1990 decision that upheld restrictions on corporate spending to support or oppose political candidates, and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, a 2003 decision that upheld the part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 that restricted campaign spending by corporations and unions."
(New York Times)
RICHARD R DEAVER JR.
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