Supreme Court Ruling Further Equates Spending to Speech

by Gabe Bullard on July 5, 2011

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision may not affect Kentucky laws, but it will affect voters.

The court struck down an Arizona law that essentially gave publicly-funded candidates more money to match successful privately-funded opponents. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell praised the ruling, saying the law punished successful candidates.

University of Louisville Professor Sam Marcosson says the ruling has upset many free speech advocates, who do not see political spending as a protected form of speech. Last year’s Citizens United ruling shows that the court’s conservative majority does see spending as speech in many cases.

“And the same justices voted the same way,” says Marcosson. “All the justices who voted to strike down the limits in Citizens United voted to strike down this Arizona law. All of the justices who dissented in Citizens United dissented.”

If Congress disagrees with the high court, counteracting the rulings will be difficult.

“For congress to do anything effective, it seems to me, what they’d almost have to do is pass a constitutional amendment allowing the regulation of the use of money by corporations [such] as Citizens United or to allow limits on contributions or the use of money by candidates themselves in their won self-financing of elections,” says Marcosson.

Opponents of the ruling are celebrating the fact that the court did not move to strike down public funding of campaigns in general.

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