Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Rights & Reason: Campaign "Reform" Upheld

This morning the Supreme Court ruled in McConnell v. FEC, the consolidated challenges to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. By a 5-4 vote, the Court upheld most of the challenged provisions, notably the “soft money” ban. Two provisions were invalidated: one banning minors from making political contributions, and the other banned political parties from making expenditures to candidates they actually nominated.

Plenty of people will analyze the Court’s 298 page ruling (including a 19 page summary) to death, and I’m happy to leave that task to them. This case has never interested me. Yes, BCRA is a wretched violation of the First Amendment, the Court’s ruling to the contrary notwithstanding. But history has taught us that every time a government tries to regulate its citizens’ rights away, those committed to preserving individual rights will find a way around it. The Alien and Sedition Acts failed. Prohibition failed. The draft fell. Campaign finance reform too will pass.

I’m not even upset with the Court for its decision. Justice O’Connor joined the “liberal” voting bloc of the Court to swing the case, hardly a surprise. Remember, O’Connor is the most partisan of the justices, meaning she’s most likely to side with the wishes of a Republican administration. In this case, President Bush defended the law, which effectively locked up O’Connor’s vote. Also remember it was Bush who signed the BCRA despite declaring it unconstitutional during the 2000 campaign. George W. Bush alone bears the responsibility for putting BCRA into law.

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