Thursday, January 21, 2010

McCain Feingold Campaign Finance Struck Down? Supreme Court Strikes Blow at McCain Feingold

It appears that the Supreme Court has struck down the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, at least to some degree. See update below.

The Washington Post now has the story.

By a 5-4 vote, the court on Thursday overturned a 20-year-old ruling that said corporations can be prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to pay for campaign ads. The decision, which almost certainly will also allow labor unions to participate more freely in campaigns, threatens similar limits imposed by 24 states....

The justices also struck down part of the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill that barred union- and corporate-paid issue ads in the closing days of election campaigns.
The decision, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, removes limits on independent expenditures that are not coordinated with candidates' campaigns.
It leaves in place a prohibition on direct contributions to candidates from corporations and unions.
 The case also does not affect political action committees, which mushroomed after post-Watergate laws set the first limits on contributions by individuals to candidates. Corporations, unions and others may create PACs to contribute directly to candidates, but they must be funded with voluntary contributions from employees, members and other individuals, not by corporate or union treasuries.
Update 1-21-10:
From NRO: The majority opinion was written by Justice Kennedy, and joined by Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
The decision overturns Austin vs. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and part of McConnell vs. FEC, which separated individual and collective campaign contributions into two legal classes and restricted the latter. But it upholds restrictions on direct contributions by corporate bodies to candidates, as well as requirements that the funding sources of political advertisements be disclosed to the public.

The case does not affect political action committees (PACs), which pool voluntary donations from individuals for direct contributions to candidates.
The case was originally heard in March 2009 and examined the laws that cap corporate spending on political activities. But then, the case was given "an unusual" rehearing focusing on "whether corporate spending limits were themselves consitutional."

The courts ruling essential was an issue of free speech, saying that that it is unconsitutional to place a restriction on political donations.

Linked by Chicago Ray - thanks!

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