Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Supreme Court and Political Speech

There's a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that no matter how it is decided, will influence what people know about candidates and campaigns -- in particular the craziness every four years that is presidential politics.

The court meets today for arguments.  Here's one place for a quick backgrounder about Hillary: The Movie and the case.

Do campaign finance laws cover a movie like this one?  I suspect the lines are so blurred that a movie is an advertisement is ... whatever.  I think the Court will dodge this one. Typically the courts give commercial speech less protection than political speech, but what about when a non-profit or commercial enterprise engages in political speech?  I have a feeling the Court will strike down most, if not all, of campaign finance laws and the result will strongly influence future presidential campaigns.    What people know about presidential candidates is already a function of political advertising, but once the spigot is opened, who knows what the end result may be. 

Some fear corporations dominating the airwaves with their money.  Others argue corporations deserve the same First Amendment rights as individuals.  This is where it gets interesting, because an original intent conservative judge might argue that the First Amendment was only intended to protect people, not companies, therefore campaign finance laws must stand.  But as if often the case, original intent folks will quickly forget their focus on original intent when ideology gets in the way.  That'll happen again this time in what will probably be a 5-4 vote to stomp campaign finance reform into mush.

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