Thursday the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the 2002 McCain-Feingold law that prohibited corpo-rations from running campaign ads advocating the election or defeat of a candidate within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general election. The five conservative members of the court opposed the four liberal members in the historic decision.
The majority ruled that corporations, like individuals, were guaranteed the right under the constitution to support any political candidate up to Election Day.
The minority argued that giving corporations that right would give too much political power to monied interests.
McCain-Feingold be-came law because majorities in Congress agreed that it would be good for America’s democracy to limit the ability of corporations to influence political decisions. Public opinion polls show that a majority of the people agree.
Still, it is not surprising that the Roberts court struck down McCain-Feingold. A literal reading of the First Amendment would seem to support unlimited free speech; political speech in particular.
McCain-Feingold rested on a slender reed: the assumption that corporations were different from individuals. A corporate officer could run a political ad on the Monday before an election; his company could not. It was a distinction upheld by the courts through various challenges. Thursday’s ruling overruled two previous high court decisions.
The American people should brace themselves. Voters will be up to their eyeballs from now until November in a blizzard of advertizing seeking to elect or defeat every candidate on the ballot who will be empowered to affect the profits that corporations make, one way or the other, if elected. And the people will not know who paid for those multi-million dollar efforts to buy the election.
When the Court next moves toward the center, where the people are, Senators McCain and Feingold — if still alive, still in office — it should try again.
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