Washington Post left-wing columnist E.J. Dionne explains today that people with whom he disagrees should not be able to buy ad space to explain their political views and candidate preferences to the public. Of course, Dionne is merely expressing the dismay that the Left's decades-long efforts to shut up political discourse that offends its minions or challenges their policies was overturned in what he calls the "outrageous" Supreme Court Citizens United decision. As Dionne expostulates:
The Citizens United justices were not required to think through the practical consequences of sweeping aside decades of work by legislators, going back to the passage of the landmark Tillman Act in 1907, who sought to prevent untoward influence-peddling and indirect bribery.
If ever a court majority legislated from the bench (with Bush's own appointees leading the way), it was the bunch that voted forCitizens United. Did a single justice in the majority even imagine a world of super PACs and phony corporations set up for the sole purpose of disguising a donor's identity? Did they think that a presidential candidacy might be kept alive largely through the generosity of a Las Vegas gambling magnate with important financial interests in China? Did they consider that the democratizing gains made in the last presidential campaign through the rise of small online contributors might be wiped out by the brute force of millionaires and billionaires determined to have their way?
"The appearance of influence or access, furthermore, will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy." Those were Justice Anthony Kennedy's words in his majority opinion. How did he know that? Did he consult the electorate? Did he think this would be true just because he said it?
Actually, Dionne is right. In fact, the "justices were not required to think through the practical consequences of sweeping aside decades of work by legislators." What the justices are "required" to do is to determine if the laws conform to the restrictions established by the U.S. constitution. In this case, the Court correctly decided that the campaign finance laws violated the First Amendment. As the Court decided [PDF]:
Although the First Amendment provides that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech," §441b's [McCain-Feingold campaign finance law's] prohibition on corporate independent expenditures is an outright ban on speech, backed by criminal sanctions [emphasis added]. It is a ban notwithstanding the fact that a [political action committee] PAC created by a corporation can still speak, for a PAC is a separate association from the corporation. Because speech is an essential mechanism of democracy—it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people—political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it by design or inadvertence.
Dionne ends his screed against free speech:
In the long run, we have to hope that a future Supreme Court will overturn this monstrosity, remembering that the first words of our Constitution are "We the People," not "We the Rich."
Why do Dionne and his ilk have such a hard time remembering the plain words of the First Amendment?:
Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press….
What's so hard to understand about the phrase "Congress shall make no law"?
For lots of insightful Reason coverage on free speech and campaign finance go here.