The Corner

A ‘Brief’ Victory for Free Speech

On Monday, the Supreme Court reversed a Montana Supreme Court ruling and upheld Citizens United. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, a longtime critic of speech regulation, tells National Review Online that the ruling was “very brief,” but that was “exactly what we had hoped for — a put-away decision.”

Indeed, the ruling was short — one page — but it was a 5–4 decision. The Supreme Court’s stark divide on this matter, McConnell says, should remind conservatives about the importance of electing a president who believes in the First Amendment and the ability to spend freely during campaigns. “In the political-speech area, when you have a narrowly divided court, it really does underscore the importance of the presidential election and the prospect of filling vacancies in the future,” he says.

“As we discussed a week ago, the president’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, is on the record saying that they want to amend the First Amendment for the first time in American history, which is an act of radicalism,” McConnell says. “I don’t think they are likely to give up. My experience with this issue for over a quarter of century is that it always keeps coming back, in one way or another. The temptation of those in charge to try to redraft the rules in a way that benefits them and disadvantages their political opponents is always kind of there.”

Late last year, Montana’s Supreme Court attempted to uphold a 1912 state ban on corporate money in elections. According to the Washington Post, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Stephen Breyer wanted the case to be heard, “arguing that Citizens United should get new scrutiny.” But in its two-paragraph opinion, the majority wrote that there is no “serious doubt” that Citizens United should apply to Montana.

“The less said the better,” McConnell says. “They stood by Citizens United and affirmed where they were two years ago. They were not swayed by the speeches and arguments that corporate money is taking over the political conversation in this country, which, of course, is not happening.”


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