Will friends of freedom of speech catch a break this time?
Soon the U.S. Supreme Court will have another chance to rule that McCain-Feingold-style muzzling of political speech is heinously unconstitutional.
In September, before its regular new term begins, the high court will hear the case of Citizens United versus Federal Election Commission. This involves the standing of two rulings. One is a 1990 ruling banning corporate funding of political campaigns does not violate the First Amendment. A 2003 ruling upholds a ban on corporate speech that even utters the name of a political candidate.
Does the Constitution permit or prohibit stuffing gags in our mouths to prevent us from speaking out of turn? Supporters of Campaign Finance Repression like to say that they’re only regulating the spending of money, not speech. Of course, human beings lack the power to engage in mass long-range telepathy. The only speech that costs nothing is the kind you utter to somebody sitting next to you in the room. Would the regulators claim that limiting the money newspapers can spend on printing presses or websites leaves them with unencumbered “freedom of speech”?
The First Amendment is explicit. “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” You make a law abridging the means of speaking, and you are abridging freedom of speech.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.