Liberals vs. Free Speech: ACLU Edition


The New York Sun's Joseph Goldstein reports that liberal anger over last week's landmark free speech decision in Citizens United v. F.E.C. exploded over the weekend at the ACLU's quarterly board meeting. The ACLU, of course, sided with the First Amendment in the case and filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of the conservative group Citizens United. As Goldstein notes, some liberals now want the organization to abandon its position:

"The ACLU's version of democracy is from the ground-up," one civil rights lawyer, David Gans, on Saturday told the ACLU's board, which was assembled downtown at One New York Plaza. "Now Exxon Mobil can spend 2% of its money and blow that all up."

Mr. Gans was one of several attorneys invited to the board meeting to debate whether the ACLU should change its position on money in politics. Another, Burt Neuborne, also urged the ACLU to change its policy, saying that any effort to salvage campaign finance regulation in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling would face trouble "if the ACLU says it's against the First Amendment."

But a contrary view was expressed by another one of the invited attorneys, Floyd Abrams, who was one of the lawyers for the victorious side in Citizen's United and who yesterday urged the ACLU not to change its position. Mr. Abrams warned that the organization would be allowing its political sensibilities to get the best of its principles.

"The worst thing you could do—the absolutely worst thing you could do—is transform a civil liberties organization into a liberal political organization," Mr. Abrams, one of the most famous First Amendment lawyers in the country, told the board.

Read the rest here.