Supremes side with special interests

The Supreme Court Monday loosened campaign finance restrictions in a ruling on free speech that will give lobby groups a louder voice in television ads for next year’s presidential election.

In a 5-4 ruling, the nation’s highest tribunal found that the rights to free speech of interest groups had been unfairly curbed by a law that limited their influence in the final stretch of electioneering.

The decision overturned a legal ban promoted in 2002 by Senator John McCain that prevented an anti-abortion group from broadcasting advertisements in Wisconsin in the two months before the 2004 general election.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said the ban infringed the constitution’s First Amendment right to free speech.

“When it comes to defining what speech qualifies as the functional equivalent of express advocacy subject to such a ban… we give the benefit of the doubt to speech, not censorship,” he wrote.

Under the 2002 campaign finance reform inspired by the Republican McCain and Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, interest groups including companies and trades unions were banned from airing ads that name a candidate for office.

The aim was to prevent the kind of “attack ads” that have become increasingly prevalent on the US political scene in the closing weeks of an election.

The Supreme Court ruled that such ads are allowed to name a candidate in the context of a broader discussion of the public interest group’s cause, without calling explicitly for that candidate to be elected or rejected.

The implications are likely to be felt nationally towards the end of this year as Democratic and Republican voters in states like Florida, New Hampshire and Iowa prepare to hold ballots on their choice for the White House.

Under a slightly different membership, the Supreme Court had upheld the McCain-Feingold act, including the ads portion, in a landmark ruling in 2003.

Representing the minority of four justices in Monday’s ruling, liberal judge David Souter said the 2003 decision had been “effectively and unjustifiably overruled today.”


  1. Electric Bill

    This court will mark Bush’s presidency more than all his other blunders put together. By appointing two right wing extremists to join Thomas and Scalia, Bush has paid off for all his bases, big business, bible-thumpers, and the military industrial complex, in one fell swoop.

  2. justanothercoverup

    The Supreme Court ruling effectively gives those with the most money the loudest voice – an effective ruling to guarantee that corporations and special interest groups who have the most money will be heard – while those who have a rebuttal message, even though it may be germane and pertinent to the issue, will be quashed based solely the availability of funds necessary to broadcast their message.

    In short, if you have the money, your message will be heard – which effectively gives those with the money ALL of the power, including the power to illegally influence elections! The five all male members of the new Supreme Court, who are also coincidentally Catholic Conservatives – have in this decision done exactly what conservatives’ stated they were trying to stop – Judicial activism in the Federal Court System!

    On this particular decision, it’s important to note that “James Bopp Jr., who represented the antiabortion group and has actively battled the provision of McCain-Feingold since its passage, said the court’s decision was “broader and more protective of issue advocacy than we argued for.” LINK

    This is a case of blatant judicial activism, and even worse, came from SCOTUS – which demonstrates that Bush and Cheney again lied to the American people and handed over the Supreme Court to Justices that would further their criminal enterprise rather than uphold the Constitution and rule of law. Go figure…


    The Supreme Court is a terrible institution. It made the Dred Scott decision which allowed slave owners to trespass on the North, which inflamed the North over the slavery issue. It also gave corporations the power of individuals to form themselves into secret societies which prey on the rest of America. This travesty of an institution is a supremacist and royalist institution for the few. It has no accountability at all.

    John Hanks, Laramie, Wyoming

  4. Wayne K Dolik

    I disagree that the Supreme Court sided with the special interests. The title of this piece is very misleading.

    If you consider the ACLU and the NRA special interests, they are not, as they are lobbies composed of private citizens banned together for a common cause. Thus McCain jammed this law down the throats of many private citizens and those groups they joined. McCains Law silenced these folks for 60 days before any election. That is un-American. Campaign Finance Reform was a system to silence protest during re-election.

    If you consider “free speech” a special interest then perhaps you are correct. What this ban on free speech by McCain is in fact was an incumbent protection act. I for one never liked the chilling effect on free speech that this Campaign Finance Reform Law had on America. This is the best ruling that the Supremes have handed down in recent memory. Bravo! Chief Roberts rejected censorship.


    Money makes a mockery of free speech. It is a bullhorn. The globalist Republicans know that.

    John Hanks, Laramie, Wyoming

  6. stewart

    I find it amusing that if the Court makes a decision contrary to the rights notions, the right gets up in arms and the same goes for the left. If we want freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press and so on and so forth, those freedoms need to be extended to even those groups we disagree with. If we try to restrict the freedom of groups that we dont care for, when will the time come that someone tries to restrict the group we may be a part of?

    The system isnt perfect but the founders certainly provided mechanisms that allow for our society to enjoy more freedoms and protects those freedoms than most other countries. A prime example is an individuals right to bitch here.

    The Court is powerful, very true,…..but prior to Marbury v Madison and the idea of judical review, the only thing the Court Constitutionally was authorized to do was interpret the law in lieu of the Constitution. Basically meaning that when the legislative branch passed a law, the Court had to “fit it in” which meant Congress could do pretty much what it wanted with legislation with no real mechanism to check that branch. This extended to the executive as well….since for those who dont know much legislation originates in some agency or commission in the executive. I prefer that the Court has this ability personally, despite the fact at times they make mistakes……if you look at the number of times they’ve gotten it right as opposed to not….the good decisions FAR outweigh the bad ones.

    So get over it.

    As far as the Court’s makeup, the Senate approved the individuals who serve. So we have in place individuals that are, as much as possible, as balanced in their decision making as can be expected. Dont forget, most of the Justices who have served over the years often surprise everyone with their votes from time to time, i.e. Sandra Day O’Connor’s votes not to overturn Roe v Wade, which was expected and why she was nominated in the first place.

    Historically, the Supreme Court for the most part gets it right, and if they dont eventually another Court will. Dred Scott fit that time in history. It wasnt right certainly, but slavery was accepted practice in most of the nation. Again it wasnt right, but…….

    And Wayne….it wasnt “McCain’s Law” as it seems you are indicating….firmly trying to blame the Republicans for yet another problem…remember Feingold…a Democrat, was the other author of this legislation…sooooo, if you want to place blame on somebody’s shoulders….it can be distributed equally among both parties.

    Mr Hanks, this horrible institution has also been responsible for interpreting most of the rights that we enjoy in this country and the addition of others, .i.e. Right to Privacy……many of which are really nowhere to be found in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights specifically.

  7. Wayne K Dolik

    Here is some some aditional background. Stewart, you are right it was McCain/Feingold but guess who snuck in the Amendment in it making it apply to all incorporated and non-profit corporations. (Citizens Groups) It appears to be Wellstone!

    “The BCRA was a mixed bag for those who wanted to remove the money from politics. It eliminated all soft money donations to the national party committees–but it also doubled the contribution limit of hard money, from $1,000 to $2,000 per election cycle, with a built-in increase for inflation. In addition, the bill aimed to curtail ads by non-party organizations by banning the use of corporate or union money to pay for ‘electioneering communications,’ a term defined as broadcast advertising that identifies a federal candidate within 30 days of a primary or nominating convention, or 60 days of a general election. This provision of McCain-Feingold, sponsored by Maine Republican Olympia Snowe and Vermont Independent James Jeffords, as introduced applied only to for-profit corporations, but was extended to incorporated, non-profit issue organizations, such as the Environmental Defense Fund or the National Rifle Association, as part of the ‘Wellstone Amendment’, sponsored by Senator Paul Wellstone.”

    Interesting, glad you brought this to my attention. Did a little investigating.

    From: Wikipedia of 2002