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Two big wins today for freeedom of speech

By |
Politics,Beltway Confidential,Mark Tapscott

A Montana law that banned corporate campaign contributions in state elections was struck down today in one of two court decisions being cheered by First Amendment advocates.

The Montana law said a “corporation may not make . . . an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political committee that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party.” Advocates of increasing government control of political speech through campaign finance laws and regulations encouraged the Court to uphold the Montana statute.

But the Court instead upheld its 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in which it “struck down a similar federal law, holding that ‘political speech does not lose First Amendment protection simply because its source is a corporation.’”

As if to remove any further doubt, the Courot added that “the question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law. There can be no serious doubt that it does.”

The high court thus affirmed both its 2010 decision and multiple rulings since the 1970s in which corporate speech, including commercial and political advertising, are presumed entitled to the same First Amendment protections as individual speech.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has taken a visible role for several decades in defending against restrictions on political speech via campaign finance laws and regulations, was cheered by the Montana decision:

“As I pointed out in an amicus brief that I filed in the Montana case, a review of Federal Election Commission records of independent spending supporting the eight Republican presidential candidates earlier this year showed only minimal corporate involvement in the 2012 election cycle. Not one Fortune 100 company contributed a cent to any of the eight Republican Super PACs, as of the end of March, according to FEC records.

“The records also showed that of the $96 million contributed to the eight Super PACs through March 31, an overwhelming 86.32 percent of that money came from individuals, while only 13.68 percent came from corporations and 0.81 percent from public companies. Clearly, the much predicted corporate tsunami that critics of Citizens United warned about simply did not occur.”

At the Sunlight Foundation, which supported the Montana law, Lisa Rosenberg said the Court missed an opportunity to step back from its Citizens United decision:

“By summarily reversing the decision of the Supreme Court of Montana, the court ignored an opportunity to reconsider two important issues in Citizens United: First, that independent expenditures do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption, and second, that current disclosure laws would provide ‘citizens with the information needed’ to ‘see whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests.’”

James Bopp, one of the attorneys for the Montana firms that challenged the state law, called the decision “an excellent result,” saying “the Court has shut the door on a multi-million dollar effort to lobby and even intimidate the Court into reconsidering Citizens United.  This effort has failed and the Citizens United decision is now settled law.  Groups of persons of average means will still be able to pool their resources to effectively participate in our democratic process.”

You can read the Court’s Montana decision here.

The second significant decision of the day comes from Montgomery County, Maryland, where a judge who previously ordered attorney and blogger Aaron Walker to cease writing about the harrassment and intimidation tactics of radical left-wing advocate and convicted bomber Brett Kimberlin lifted the order, at least temporarily.

Blogger Robert Stacy McCain, one of multiple conservative bloggers across the country, who took up Walker’s cause last month, reports that the issue is scheduled for permanent resolution in a July 5 Maryland appeals court:

“It is important to note that Judge Rupp’s ruling only temporarily permits Walker to speak and write about Kimberlin, pending a July 5 hearing in Maryland state appeals court. Walker is appealing a May 29 ruling by Montgomery County District Court Judge C.J. Vaughey that granted a peace order sought by Kimberlin against Walker.”

For more on the case from McCain, go here.

 

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