If Internal Revenue Service intimidation of conservative advocacy groups isn’t enough to make you wonder how secure your First Amendment right to political speech really is, a recent performance by the U.S. Supreme Court may do the trick.
McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission found aggregate limits on individual campaign contributions unconstitutional—but by only a 5-4 margin. The next one could go 5-4 the other way. We are past the time, if there ever was one, when it could be assumed the courts would protect fundamental freedoms.
Also notice that the most heated objections to any affirmation of the right to political speech come not from people who could argue they’ve been shut out of the game, but from people who enjoy their own political speech in abundance and dislike the idea of others horning in.
Organized to amend the Constitution to restrict political expression, not enhance it, Move to Amend argues disingenuously that political spending can’t be equated with speech. It was founded in part by Madison leftist Ben Manski, who’s exercised more political speech than roughly 99 percent of Americans and will presumably be unsatisfied until he personally exercises 100 percent of the nation’s political speech.
Yes, McCutcheon is a victory for free speech but it’s another baby step toward the dismantling of laws designed mainly to immunize congressional incumbents against criticism by ordinary mortals.
In his concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas had it right: “This case represents yet another missed opportunity to right the course of our campaign finance jurisprudence by restoring a standard that is faithful to the First Amendment. Until we undertake that reexamination, we remain in a ‘halfway house’ of our own design. “