The First Amendment does not permit laws that force speakers to retain a campaign finance attorney, conduct demographic marketing research, or seek declaratory rulings before discussing the most salient political issues of our day.
The Supreme Court’s decision striking many of the regulations of McCain-Feingold has been harshly criticized by proponents of campaign finance restrictions. Some have even called it the “worst decision since Dred Scott.” But when you actually read it… well, it’s pretty well-reasoned.
The part of the decision that has drawn the sharpest criticism is, ironically, the least controversial from a legal standpoint: the notion that corporations are “persons” under our constitution, with constitutional rights that the government may not infringe. This idea, controversial on this day the opinion was released, has been established as a matter of law since at least 1885. (I was too lazy to search beyond that.)
So why the outrage? Corporations are easy to hate. “Money in politics” is easy to hate. For some people, any conservative legal thought is easy to hate. (Free speech for me, but not for thee…) The ends – reducing the influence of the wealthy on political debate – justifies the means – legally prohibiting core political speech.
Now, at least for a little while, speech can breathe a little bit freer.