Bench Memos

Bradley Smith, Case Western, and a Heap of Ironies

Inside Higher Ed reports that Bradley A. Smith–familiar to NRO readers as a tireless advocate of the freedom of political speech in the face of such abominations as McCain-Feingold–is being targeted by an anonymous gang of opponents to his candidacy for the deanship of the law school at Case Western Reserve University.  Smith, now a professor at Capital University law school (also in Ohio), is a former Federal Election Commission chairman and author of Unfree Speech: The Folly of Campaign Finance Reform (published by that scarcely-known, fly-by-night outfit, Princeton University Press).  His views have been partially vindicated in such landmarks as the 2010 ruling of the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC.  Ah, but to his anonymous opponents at Case Against Smith, he is (you guessed it) an “extremist”!

Our own Jonathan Adler, a Case Western law professor, was right to call this an “anonymous smear campaign” in a letter to IHE (quoted in the story linked above).  Those responsible for this puerility should be ashamed of themselves.  Ironically, though, it is Smith himself who would most ardently back their right to voice their opinions anonymously–and Smith’s critics would be much less likely to do so.  In 1995, the Supreme Court decided McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, striking down (7-2) an Ohio statute that required the disclosure of the identities of people engaging in political speech.  Smith strongly supported the McIntyre ruling (it wouldn’t surprise me if he authored an amicus brief in the case, but I don’t know).  It’s Smith’s adversaries on the left, in the struggle over campaign finance “reform,” who regularly demand identification of all speakers and funders of speech, regardless of the potential chilling effect.  Do Smith’s current opponents, in the Case Western deanship struggle, agree with Smith about McIntyre’s protection of anonymity–resulting from a case right there in Ohio–or would they have supported the “progressive” reform of the state’s invalidated “disclosure” statute?

If they like McIntyre, they should like Smith–and they should change their tune about him or shut down.  If they dislike McIntyre, they should come out and say who they are.  Don’tcha think?

Matthew J. Franck — Matthew J. Franck is the Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.

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