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Supreme Court rules McCain/Feingold is unconstitutional

January 21, 2010

  In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court has ruled that the McCain/Feingold campaign finance reform law violates the first amendment and is unconstitutional.

  McCain/Feingold limited corporations from running campaign ads in the last 30 days of a campaign. Here is what Justice Kennedy had to say while writing for the majority:

If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech

  And that is what was at issue here, this law put restrictions on free speech. Or to be more precise, on political speech. It limited who could say what, and when they could say it, during political campaigns. That certainly seems to be the opposite of one of the main foundations that America was built on. Don’t get me wrong, I feel that there is too much money that pours into all of these campaigns from special interests, and eventually the winner has to repay the debt, but this law did not stop special interests from spending money.

  The primaries leading up to the last presidential election took in record amounts of money with McCain/Feingold as law. The law led to the creation of the “527’s” that were exempt from the law, which led to an even greater influx of money to the candidates. In addition to the law being unconstitutional, it was ineffective and a failure.

  While I find the influence of special interest groups on both sides to be reprehensible, I find it equally– if not more so– reprehensible to limit a group’s first amendment rights.

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. January 21, 2010 10:27 pm

    Our last (Labour) government passed a similar law (now rescinded). The law aimed to limit individuals spending money prior to elections, instead wished to fund registered political parties a set ammount from government coffers. It’s aim was anti-free speech, and helped drive the final nail into Prime Minister Helen Clark’s political coffin.

    Unfortunately she’s now risen to greater heights within the UN bureaucracy.

    As an aside, it’s interesting to compare Australian Tony Abbott (hopefully their next P.M.) and Scott Brown. Men’s men both of them, and both I think with glittering political futures.


  2. January 21, 2010 10:36 pm

    Great! This was just another bogus step by McCain across the isle. This is good for conservatives, as big labor will always find a way to get it money to the Democrats.


    • January 21, 2010 11:16 pm

      This was one of several problems that I had with McCain. He will now forever have his name linked to authoring an unconstitutional bill.


  3. LD Jackson permalink
    January 21, 2010 10:45 pm

    I have long disliked McCain/Feingold because it seems to limit those who have few campaign funds in their efforts to run the campaign. I also believe in the freedom of speech, but will this ruling make it that much easier for special interest groups to influence an election? I think it is something to consider.


    • January 21, 2010 11:25 pm

      That is the real question Larry. Nobody hates the influence that special interests have in elections than I do, and the fact that the winner has to “repay the debt” once they are in office. But how do you balance this against the right to free speech? I know this is a question that Mike recently asked at Political Realities, and I just don’t know what the answer is.
      Will this give them more influence? I am not sure it will because they have already found a way around the law with the 527s.


  4. January 21, 2010 10:47 pm

    Boiling a frog. Is it me or did just get warmer?


  5. January 22, 2010 11:13 am

    I was wondering how long this terrible law would stand. I’m glad to see it finally went down.


  6. January 22, 2010 11:54 am

    My concern is that it apparently didn’t strike that law down fully. There will still be wiggle room if I read things correctly. It may only be a baby step, but any steps are better than none. Not to mention that you need to be able to walk before you can run.


  7. Mike permalink
    January 22, 2010 12:59 pm

    Whether McCain-Feingold was effective or not is completely irrelevant to a conversation of whether it was constitutional. Your post says ” It limited who could say what, and when they could say it, during political campaigns.” But a corporation is not a “who” it is a “what” and it is expressly NOT covered by the Constitution. A Congressional decision to change McC-F would have been appropriate. A Court decision eliminating it completely, and effectively declaring its intent unconstitutional, is unconscionable. It was a passed by Congress, signed by the President, and confirmed by the Court. Now that the balance of the Court has changed a law passed by the People’s representatives and approved by the Court suddenly becomes unconstitutional. This is just plain wrong and not the way the Founding Fathers, who you all quote when it suits your position, designed our system.


    • January 23, 2010 5:57 am

      Mike, I have mixed feelings about this ruling. I can’t stand the idea of special interests running all of these ads that we already see. The reason I mentioned the laws ineffectiveness was because these groups had already found a way around the law with the 527s, so I thought that this ruling wouldn’t change much of what was happening anyway. But we all know that probably isn’t true. Something has to be done about the special interest groups on both sides, I don’t know what it is, and how to go about it. I believe that the SC decision left the door open for congress to fix the problem, but isn’t that how McCain/Feingold became law? What is to stop the SC from doing this again.


    • mamapajamas permalink
      January 24, 2010 8:35 pm

      I have to agree with Mr. P with the point about the 527’s.

      The 1st Amendment gives the people the right to ASSEMBLE peacefully and petition the government. How those people are assembled is not mentioned. Whether they are assembled as a corporation or a 527 advocacy organization doesn’t make any difference to me.

      Forbidding corporations to do campaign advocacy or adversarial ads 30 days before the election did a lot of damage, IMHO, given that most people in this nation don’t even think about politics until a couple of weeks before an election. If only the 527’s could run ads, this gave incumbants an edge. Whoever held the seat was more likely to have the power and wherewithall to get a 527 organized before the election. The McCain-Feingold Act was a “let’s protect the incumbant” bill.


  8. January 22, 2010 9:14 pm

    A corporation is recognized by the law as an individual entity, separate from its shareholders (owners), and is many times treated as a human being.

    I didn’t see anything in the constitution regarding corporations, Mike. Maybe we’re just getting terminology crossed.


    • January 22, 2010 11:30 pm

      I would like to point out that the founding fathers were no lovers of corporations. Case in point, there was that incident in Boston involving an East India Company ship. It wasn’t just the actions of the Crown they were protesting. The restrictions on corporations when the country was founded make McCain/Feingold seem weak. Of course, the intentions of the founding fathers only matter when it supports conservatism.


      • January 23, 2010 6:01 am

        As I told Mike above, I have mixed feelings about this ruling. I hate seeing the special interest groups pouring all of the money into these campaigns as much as anyone else. McCain/Feingold didn’t seem to stop this from happening anyway. But now the door is wide open.


  9. January 23, 2010 12:51 am

    This is incredible news!


  10. Rick permalink
    January 23, 2010 8:01 am

    Yea the door is now wide open.
    But think of it like this.
    They took all the guns away from those who follow the law and found the only ones with guns were those who break the law.
    Now they have given the guns back.


  11. January 25, 2010 7:51 pm

    Hmmm… Momapajamas comment isn’t showing now… I think she nailed it.

    Like the fella with the pink eyes, I have reservations. However, I also remember how my small group ( s ) could have no impact whatsoever because we had to keep our lips buttoned when it just might have been possible to make an impact.

    Think about it. All it would take is for Rahm Emanuel to issue a ruling that all blogs are a political entity, if they deal with overt politics, or social issues. Then, Pinkeyes, TexasFred, BZ, Myself, and countless others have our thoughts and desires clamped off while the entrenched establishment has free reign. It would take years to get a challenge to SCOTUS, which is right now in a position to be stacked with big government communists, to get overturned. A SCOTUS that has blatantly disregarded the Constitution with regard to ex post facto law and individual property rights, just to name a couple of issues.

    Political Correctness, Racism, and Raw Sexism at it’s finest.

    I want, and need the unrestricted ability to fight those sorts of things. If I form a Corporation to do so? I guess that myself and Rick will just have to disagree.

    At least now I can do that!


    • January 25, 2010 9:47 pm

      An interesting thought. If they ever did come after the blogs, how would we ever defend ourselves? We would be shut down and would lose our voice to fight against the machine. As mamapajamas said, a coperation is still a group of people, shouldn’t those people be allowed to campaign for their candidates?


  12. Opa permalink
    January 30, 2010 8:41 am

    I do recommend that you all find the time to read Unequal Protection by Thom Hartmann.



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