U.S. Supreme Court to re-hear campaign finance case this fall, matter could have wide-ranging political consequences for years to come
Interesting. Politico.com is reporting that the U.S. Supreme Court will in September re-hear a case challenging campaign finance restrictions on corporate-funded campaign ads. Given that a hotly-contested 2010 midterm election will, at that point, be a little more than a year away, the Court’s decision could have wide-ranging effects on both the 2010 midterm and 2012 presidential election.
According to the report, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and other Democrats have used the Court’s decision to indeed re-hear the case as a rallying cry for confirming Obama Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor quickly. Worried Democrats? That’s enough for me.
The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act–known informally as “McCain-Feingold” for authors John McCain and Russ Feingold–is perhaps the premier spit in the face of the United States Constitution by an otherwise honorable man who many times swore an oath to protect and defend that document, both as a Naval airman and as a national politician on Capitol Hill. Speech is speech. And over and beyond the obvious infringement of First Amendment protections, the BCRA had a profound effect on presidential politics in particular.
Much in the same way liberals look to quash talk radio and other outlets of conservative perspective in an attempt to silence feared issue-specific political debate, Democrats have long looked to legislation in an attempt to wrest electoral influence from their Republican counterparts in this center-right nation. Heck, it was either that or enact fundamental changes to the big-government platform at the core of the left’s message. First, it was the Federal Election Campaign Act, which was passed in 1971 and intended to handcuff political contributions and expenditures while largely leaving Democratic Party advantages from unions and other similar organizations intact. A few years later, FECA was picked apart by the U.S. Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo, in which the restrictions on expenditures in particular were held to be unconstitutional.
Fast-forward to 2002 and the Democrats, with the help of an Arizona Republican senator who just happens to leap to the left when spooked like a deer in the headlights, pushed through the BCRA. This time, the target was so-called “soft money,” political contributions destined for political parties and meant for party-building needs, as well as issue advertising which stopped short of expressly supporting or opposing a particular candidate. Both were lucrative for the GOP, and therefore were in the sights of the Democrats (and John McCain). The legislation also stopped organizations such as pro-life groups like Wisconsin Right to Life or, perhaps, the American Medical Association from running advertisements even referencing a specific candidate within 60 days of an election. You may remember that Nancy Pelosi was questioned about this for her involvement with the global warming advertisements–funded by Al Gore’s group, I think–run very close to last year’s election.
Slowly but surely, the Supreme Court has been chipping away at this unconstitutional abomination like it did with regard to certain aspects of FECA. Last year at this time, a decision in FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life found the Court holding that the federal government may not restrict organizations from running advertisements discussing contentious issues within 60 days of an election. Now, it appears that the Court is ready to chip away a little more.
That explains the ire among those on the left. For the same reason that nearly every liberal Democrat seeking national office needs to float to the center before the election, the Democrats know that their policies do not draw mainstream support from the majority of Americans, and therefore have limited options — change the unpopular message, persuade the public to embrace that unpopular message, or prevent their political adversaries from gaining power by any means possible.
In terms of the first option, changing the unpopular message, that’s why we saw Barack Obama gallivanting around urban and rural centers alike promising that families who make less than $250,000 each year would not see a single tax increase. We all knew he didn’t mean it. We all know the left’s propensity to tax-and-spend. But he was charming, knew how to read from a TelePrompTer, and he got away with it.
To persuade the people to embrace the unpopular message, the Democrats have perhaps the best allies possible — the mainstream press. That’s why we saw Henry Waxman on cable television yesterday arguing that, by opposing his 1,500-page cap-and-trade nightmare, Republicans were somehow “cheering against the United States” and the rest of the world. That’s why we see the president, as well as the Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader, overtly defying promises for transparency and refusing to allow the public access to major pieces of legislation before congressional votes.
Finally, on the latter, the Democrats know that if all else fails, if the American people can get wind of their detrimental proposals, understand them, and fight them, they can still prevent the GOP from wresting control through other means. That’s why the Democrats continue to look to revive the Fairness Doctrine or something like it, if not at the national level than at the local ones. That’s why the Democrats look to label right-wingers like myself “terrorists.” And that’s why they will fight tooth-and-nail to keep the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act intact.
For all of you who rolled your eyes when I wrote last year so many times about the importance of the presidential election in terms of the aging Supreme Court, this is why you needed to pay attention. God willing, America will be able to count on five Justices who put the Constitution before compassion, the rule of law before ideology and political gamesmanship. One Justice too many can make all of the difference.
Perhaps, too, this shows a brighter side of the possible confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor, a nominee chosen by our solipsistic president because of her resemblence to himself and his wife in terms of ideology, obsession with race, and fixation on identity politics. Sotomayor may very well be an accomplished judge, and her story truly is a breathtaking example of all that is possible in a free America, but by all accounts an intellectual heavyweight she is not. If she is confirmed, I simply cannot see her garnering support among fellow Justices or standing up well to dissenting opinions from her strict constructionist counterparts. She could very well either be consistently outmatched, or end up seeing the light and surprising us all.
Regardless, the Supreme Court’s decision to re-hear this campaign finance matter could have far-reaching consequences, and should not only be monitored, but also used as a litmus test of sorts when weighing the current nominee and nominees to come.