Not Now, SpeechNow


There will be no preliminary injunction for, the pro-free speech-in-politics group profiled by Jacob Sullum here. The group can't run ads attacking Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.) and Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), according to the ruling of a D.C. district court.

Plaintiffs' argument presents a false syllogism that relies on a "crabbed view of corruption, and particularly of the appearance of corruption" that is at odds with Supreme Court precedent…

Second, that SpeechNow cannot literally funnel contributions to candidates, and therefore cannot serve as a vehicle for the direct exchange of dollars for political favors, is not dispositive. The Supreme Court has long acknowledged that "corruption," in the sense that word is used in campaign finance law, "extends beyond explicit cash-for-votes agreements to 'undue influence on an officeholder's judgment.'"

Democracy 21 does the Snoopy dance, which is to be expected, since the group's first reaction to political speech is "how illegal was that?" The New York Sun has some depressing quotes.

"He is saying to be truly independent is impossible, but that is the exception that swallows the First Amendment," a lawyer backing the challenge, Steven Simpson of the Institute for Justice, said, vowing an appeal. "People have the right to speak. They don't have to apologize for the fact that other people might abuse that right."

A supporter of campaign finance regulation, Tara Malloy of the Campaign Legal Center, praised the ruling. "The idea that 527 groups are sort of magically independent really doesn't withstand scrutiny," she said.

If you want a few non-magical opinions about free campaign speech, dig into reason's archives. Michael Lynch chewed over the issue with FEC commissioner Brad Smith in 2001.