In a 5-to-4 majority, the high court, complementing its landmark 2010 Citizens United ruling, has again made it clear that trying to prevent people financing their own political speech in the 21st century is as repressive as restricting the sale of soapboxes to stand on and speak from in centuries past.
“Money in politics may at times seem repugnant to some, but so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects,” Chief Justice John Roberts declared in Wednesday’s McCutcheon v. FEC decision.
“If the First Amendment protects flag burning, funeral protests, and Nazi parades — despite the profound offense such spectacles cause — it surely protects political campaign speech despite popular opposition.”
Because caps on the total amounts individuals can give to candidates and the parties “intrude without justification on a citizen’s ability to exercise ‘the most fundamental First Amendment activities,'” the majority struck down the $123,200 limit now in place on contributions during any two-year election cycle.
Writing for the court’s liberals, Justice Stephen Breyer argued that the ruling “understates the importance of protecting the political integrity of our governmental institutions” and “will allow a single individual to contribute millions of dollars to a political party or to a candidate’s campaign.”
But what about Americans who want to finance the speech of candidates who believe that some of our governmental institutions have become too powerful?
Isn’t it better for conservative, liberal and moderate tycoons alike to directly fund candidates, instead of operating “shadowy groups” — like George Soros’ harmless-sounding, multibillion-dollar Open Society Foundation, which gave $58 million to leftist groups in 2011 alone? That innocuous group’s effort is part of over $10 billion Soros has given to the left over the last 30 years, as NewsBusters’ Mike Ciandella notes.
Believe it or not, one of Soros’ proclaimed goals is to “get money out of politics.” But what the left really seeks is to get dissenting speech out of Big Government’s way. The speech-stifling public financing they pine for would mean the left-dominated media deciding elections.
What the Supreme Court has just done will shine a light on Soros and his ilk, like the hypocritical enviro-billionaire mega-donor Steyer family of San Francisco, as they give more to individual races.
We’ll see more clearly which Republicans the much-demonized Koch brothers like best, too, and that’s fine.
Right now, the interests that take most advantage of campaign finance restrictions are powerful unions with a vested interest in big government, like AFSCME and the NEA public school teachers’ union, and trial lawyers seeking settlements from businesses. And they strongly favor liberal Democrats.
Now that the public will be able to see more money going directly to candidates, we can expect the debate to focus more on ideas. Which means the left will lose.
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This article was written by the editorial board of the Investors Business Daily.