January 22, 2010

NEW YORK TIMES: Corporations shouldn’t have free speech rights, unless they’re us.

Meanwhile, some more sensible thoughts from Matt Welch:

Free speech really does mean free speech, and the laws that the “Citizens” ruling overturned directly and heinously restricted the stuff. Forget for the moment the broad characterization of the ruling — such as The New York Times claim that it “sweep[s] aside a century-old understanding” — and drill down to the individual case in question.

Citizens United, a conservative 501(c)(4) nonprofit that has funded a dozen political documentaries over the years, produced a critical documentary about Hillary Clinton in 2008 entitled “Hillary: The Movie.” By a decision of the federal government, which was enforcing the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (known more broadly as McCain-Feingold), this piece of political speech was banned from television.

Let’s boil it down to the essential words: Political documentary, banned, government.

You don’t have to be a First Amendment purist to intuit that political speech was, if anything, the most urgent subcategory covered by the First Amendment’s “Congress shall pass no law” restrictions. And you don’t have to be a Hillary-hater to imagine the shoe on the other foot. What if MoveOn.org’s 501(c)(4), Campaign to Defend America, had been blocked by George W. Bush’s Federal Elections Commission from broadcasting “McCain: The Movie”? Wouldn’t that stink, too?

That would be completely different. Or, at least, the NYT editorial would be. . . .

Meanwhile, Ann Althouse notes an ironic action by Hillary.A forceful response to a Supreme Court decision recognizing the importance of free speech. It would have been even more painfully funny if Hillary Clinton had also, in her speech yesterday, promoted the American values of separation of powers and an independent judiciary.”

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