Here’s a great interview with Steve Simpson in which he argues that Americans need to recognize freedom of speech not as a permission to be granted when it suits social purposes, but as a right to be protected at all times. (The interview is in the first hour of the July 17 podcast.) For more on this subject, see Simpson’s article in The Objective Standard “Citizens United and the Battle for Free Speech in America.”
Here is are the opening paragraphs:
The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Citizens United v. FEC is one of the most important First Amendment decisions in a generation and one of the most controversial. In it, the Supreme Court struck down a law that banned corporations from spending their own money on speech that advocated the election or defeat of candidates. In the process, the Court overturned portions of McConnell v. FEC, a case in which the Supreme Court, a mere six years ago, upheld McCain-Feingold, one of the most sweeping restrictions on campaign speech in history.
In many ways, Citizens United is a ringing endorsement of First Amendment rights, and it is certainly cause for optimism about the future of free speech. But the divisions on the Supreme Court over the case and the reactions from Democrats in Congress, the media, and the left in general indicate that Citizens United will not be the last word on the matter.
In this respect, the controversy is not surprising: Citizens United dealt a serious blow to the further growth of campaign finance laws, supporters of which are determined and outspoken. But the controversy is shocking from the standpoint of the law at issue: It prevented a nonprofit group from distributing a film that criticized a candidate, Hillary Clinton, during her run for the presidency in 2008. During oral arguments in the case, the government admitted campaign finance laws could be applied to prevent corporations from publishing and distributing not only films but also books that said the wrong things during election cycles.
Banning films and books?
The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” Those simple and elegant words would seem to leave no room for a law, passed by Congress, that prevents corporations from spending money to distribute films and books. So, how did we get here?