Wednesday, January 27, 2010

SCOTUS Stands up for Free Speech

John R. Houk
© January 27, 2010

McCain/Feingold was one of the most dubious pieces of legislation coming from our U. S. Congress. Note the first name is a Republican and the second name is a Democrat. I don’t know who voted for it or against this legislation but the authors denote a bi-partisan effort.

Senator John McCain’s name on this legislation is probably one of the most legit reasons Conservative voters looked at the 2008 Presidential candidate with a bit of distrust. McCain/Feingold became an incumbent instrument to stifle free speech by placing time restrictions on media supported for or against communication concerning a political candidate running for Federal Office.

McCain/Feingold was utilized when a movie about then Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was prohibited to be shown. Hillary’s complaint was joined by at the time contender Senator Barack Hussein Obama. Although Hillary and BHO were rivals an intelligent person could understand why he stands with Hillary and FEC on this bit of Free Speech intrusion. BHO had a lot of baggage that if aired in film or documentary effectively, media would have damaged his run of “Yes we can”.

The name of the movie/documentary was (is) “Hillary: The Movie.” The Dem complaints to the FEC resulted in McCain/Feingold enforcement. The producer of the movie Dave Bossie sued rightly complaining of First Amendment Free Speech infringement.

I’ll have to admit I have not followed this case much. Nonetheless, I am delighted it made its way to the Supreme Court of the United States of America (SCOTUS). SCOTUS spanked the FEC for violating the Constitution’s First Amendment. This effectively places McCain/Feingold on shaky ground as a tool to limit Free Speech. I am guessing another case or two will have to hit SCOTUS for the Supreme Justices specifically strike the McCain/Feingold legislation into official oblivion. Ironically President Barack Hussein Obama may hasten that SCOTUS decision be going public by claiming his Administration will do its part to reverse the SCOTUS decision. Now doesn’t that smack of Executive Leftist hubris to publicly make an agenda to reverse a SCOTUS decision? I am thinking if there is such a thing as a centrist Justice, BHO’s public ballyhoo might cause some silent resentment.

Newt Gingrich has written an incredible essay hailing the SCOTUS protection of Free Speech and the chipping away of McCain/Feingold.

JRH 1/27/10
A Victory Over the Political Machine

By Newt Gingrich
Human Events

“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.”

These are the words of Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in a historic Supreme Court decision that began with a man, a movie, and a message that bothered the bureaucratic Washington machine.

In January of 2008, as the Democratic presidential primaries between Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) were raging, filmmaker Dave Bossie set about advertising and distributing his 90-minute documentary “Hillary: The Movie.” (Full disclosure: Callista and I host and produce movies with Dave.)

The film offered a critical look at the New York senator then vying for the presidency. But Bossie was stunned when government officials from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) told him the film couldn’t be aired or even advertised. Their reason? Sen. Clinton was a candidate for federal office, so Bossie’s film was illegal under campaign finance law.

Bossie’s production company, Citizens United, sued, claiming its first amendment right to free speech was being denied by the government. And the Supreme Court decision announced last week was not only a vindication of the free speech rights of all Americans, it was a significant step toward dismantling the incumbent-protecting political machine created by bureaucratic campaign finance “reforms” like McCain-Feingold.

By declaring that government has no business suppressing the political speech of groups like Citizens United, the Supreme Court has begun to make it easier for middle class candidates to take on the rich and the powerful.

The Bureaucratic, Anti-Freedom Model of Campaign Finance Was Wrong

Citizens United v. FEC is one more piece of evidence that the model of bureaucratic campaign finance reform -- of government restricting the freedom of Americans to criticize politicians rather than maximizing our freedom to question our leadership -- was wrong.

The Founders understood the importance of the unfettered right of citizens to complain about their government. They recognized the danger of politicians controlling or censoring the debate about themselves. That’s why they wrote in the First Amendment to the Constitution that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.”

These words and this right have been stunningly perverted by laws like McCain-Feingold, which was explicitly a case of Congress making a law abridging our freedom of speech -- of incumbent politicians attempting to censor the people’s discussion of whether they should remain in office.

Government Can’t Limit the Ability of Associations of Citizens to Spend in Campaigns

Citizens United was a great victory for free speech because it declared that government can’t limit the right of corporations and unions -- the “associations of citizens” Justice Kennedy refers to above -- from spending freely to support or oppose candidates in elections.

It struck down the part of the McCain-Feingold law that censored corporate-funded political ads within 60 days of federal elections and within 30 days of primaries.

Although it left in place the prohibition on corporate donations directly to candidates and on the ability of corporations to coordinate their activities with candidates, it reversed an earlier high court ruling that allowed government to prevent corporations, nonprofits and unions from spending money independently to influence the outcome of an election.

Making it Easier for Middle Class Candidates to Take on Incumbents

The near-hysterical reaction of proponents of bureaucratic campaign finance laws such as big money fund raiser and incumbent Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) that the decision is “un-American” and “a threat to our democracy” are exactly wrong.

Laws like McCain-Feingold give incumbent politicians in Washington tremendous advantages over middle-class citizen challengers. Incumbents have literally millions of dollars worth of taxpayer-funded staff, traveling and mailing privileges.

And thanks to McCain-Feingold imposed limits on what individuals can contribute to candidates, rich politicians who can spend unlimited amounts of their own money and don’t have to worry about raising money in small amounts have a tremendous advantage.

Former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D) used his personal fortune from Goldman Sachs to first buy a Senate seat and then the governorship. And New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg would have been defeated by a virtual unknown last November if he hadn’t been able to spend his millions.

Citizens United v. FEC doesn’t threaten our democracy. It strengthens it by making it easier for middle-class candidates to compete against the wealthy and incumbents.

Real Reform Would Be Unlimited Donations Posted on the Internet

But as significant as it was, the Court’s decision wasn’t real campaign finance reform.

Real reform under our Constitution will only come when Americans and associations of Americans are allowed to give unlimited amounts of after-tax money to the candidates and campaigns of their choice.

Donors should be given this freedom and required to post on the Internet every night what they’re spending and how they’re spending. That way, voters would know who is funding whom, and how much. Armed with that knowledge, Americans can be trusted to make an informed, truly democratic choice.

Predictably, just the prospect of voters making such a free and informed choice has the Washington establishment machine up in arms.

Can We Trust the American People Mr. President? Yes, We Can.

In a breathtaking display of hypocrisy, President Obama used his weekly radio address last week to pledge to work with Congress to reverse the decision and declared: “I can’t think of anything more devastating to the public interest. The last thing we need to do is hand more influence to the lobbyists in Washington or more power to the special interests to tip the outcome of elections” (emphasis added).

This, from the president who negotiated back-room deals with special interests in order to force Democratic health care reform on the American people.

This, from a president whose massive expansion of government into the private sector has set off a stampede of lobbyists to Washington to claim their piece of the taxpayers’ pie.

But even more glaring than the hypocrisy is the obvious contempt that supporters of bureaucratic campaign finance have for the American people.

Ultimately, the question comes down to one of trust. Can we trust the people, and not the government, to determine our political future? The answer, Mr. President, is a familiar one:

“Yes we can.”

Your friend,

Newt Gingrich

SCOTUS Stands up for Free Speech
John R. Houk
© January 27, 2010

A Victory Over the Political Machine
Mr. Gingrich is the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and author of "Real Change: From the World That Fails to the World That Works" and "Winning the Future" (published by Regnery, a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).

Copyright © 2010 HUMAN EVENTS. All Rights Reserved.

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