Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Making Constitutional Speech Illegal

Senator McCain's biggest accomplishment is making political speech illegal while nude dancing is protected to the point that cities are required - required - to allow it. The US Constitution's primary purpose in protecting speech was to allow political discourse. John McCain is proud that McCain-Feingold does not allow citizen groups to take out advertising that targets a politician in the last 60 days before an election. (Is his goal to protect incumbents? Looks like it.) This has been interpreted by courts to not allow an ad on an issue during those 60 days because the politican running for reelection favors the issue. And one of the lowest acts of the US Supreme Court was upholding McCain-Feingold in McConnell v. FEC in 2003. But there is good news here. The Roberts Supreme Court reopened the door on Monday. reports:
The Supreme Court on Monday said that its landmark 2003 ruling upholding the McCain-Feingold campaign reform law did not foreclose all First Amendment challenges to provisions restricting pre-election issue advertising. The Court remanded to a three-judge panel in Washington, D.C., the case of Wisconsin Right to Life Inc. v. Federal Election Commission, which was argued before the high court Jan. 17 -- a remarkably quick turnaround for a contentious issue.
But the reason I take up this hot-button topic (could you have guessed?) today is an article in the Wall Street Journal today that features the court attack on local talk radio hosts Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson on KVI. A Washington court found - against all precedent and logic - that these talk radio hosts' talking about the initiative to repeal a gas-tax increase was a donation to the campaign. Sound Politics covered this. And here. Highlights of the Wall Street Journal article:
The rise of alternative media--political talk radio in the 1980s, cable news in the '90s, and the blogosphere in the new millennium--has broken the liberal monopoly over news and opinion outlets. The left understands acutely the implications of this revolution, blaming much of the Democratic Party's current electoral trouble on the influence of the new media's vigorous conservative voices. Instead of fighting back with ideas, however, today's liberals quietly, relentlessly and illiberally are working to smother this flourishing universe of political discourse under a tangle of campaign-finance and media regulations. Their campaign represents the most sustained attack on free political speech in the United States since the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts. Though Republicans have the most to lose in the short run, all Americans who care about our most fundamental rights and the civic health of our democracy need to understand what's going on--and resist it.


Anonymous said...

Well, I'm all for nude dancing, and when it comes to political ads, I say let people spend and say whatever they want, and let the chips fall where they may.

If there were appropriate penalties available whenever someone actually lied in a campaign ad, and strict disclosure requirements for all funding of political campaigns, that should be about all we need. What's a lie? That's for a jury to decide.

Ron said...

Criminalizing campaign speech is one of the ever present dreams of the speech cops. It's part of their uotlimate dream: Lock up their political opponents.

Now every voter decides what is a lie in an ad and the penalty is loss of their vote. So millions of people are on the job with our current system. Not perfect, but a lot better than putting the anti-first-amendment people in charge.