The Lonely Centrist

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Monday, January 23, 2006

A Rare Win for Free Speech in Campaign Finance

In a very brief, per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court today announced a decision in Wisconsin Right to Life v. Federal Election Commission. (My take on the oral argument, with a brief description of the case, is here.) The Skeptic has republished the full decision.

Not too much should be read into the case - all the Court decides is that the odious 60 day pre-election ban on corporate, non-profit, and union broadcast ads is open to at least some as applied challenge. It remands to the district court to consider the challenge.

BUT... it is also possible to make too little of the case. During the 1990s, so-called "reform" advocates lost case after case, in the district, appellate, and Supreme courts. That changed in 2000, with Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC. Since then, the so-called "reformers" have won every round at the Supreme Court. It has been 10 years since the pro-freedom forces won anything of significance in this arena - since Colorado Federal Republican Campaign Committee v. FEC (Colorado I) in 1996. Since then four major cases have gone the other way in the Supreme Court - Nixon, Colorado Federal Republican Campaign Committee v. FEC (Colorado II), FEC v. Beaumont, and of course McConnell v. FEC. If nothing else, this will provide cheer, succor, and morale for the pro-freedom forces. And while one doesn't want to make too much of it, with a new Justice soon to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, and another pro-regulatory Justice, Stevens, ailing, one wonders if the tide of pro-"reform" rulings in the Supreme Court has crested.

P.S. A friend sends me an email asking if the "reformers" will feel properly "rebuked" at having their position - that no as applied challenges are allowed - rejected by the Court. It's a reference to how the "reformers" have, showing a bit of pettiness, characterized past judicial decisions that went their way, as "rebukes" to the losing side. My guess is that the answer to his question is "no."

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