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Supreme Court: Campaign-finance limits violate free speech

The Supreme Court campaign finance ruling on Thursday means corporations can spend freely on political ads leading up to elections. The Thursday decision invalidates a part of 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform law that sought to limit corporate influence.

Common Cause President Bob Edgar (r.) and Public Campaign President Nick Nyhart (l.), accompanied by Public Campaign Legal Center Executive Director Gerald Hebert (c.), lambast the Supreme Court's campaign-finance ruling during a news conference Thursday outside the Supreme Court in Washington.

Lauren Victoria Burke/AP

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The US Supreme Court has struck down a major portion of a 2002 campaign-finance reform law, saying it violates the free-speech right of corporations to engage in public debate of political issues.

In a landmark 5-to-4 decision announced Thursday, the high court overturned a 1990 legal precedent and reversed a position it took in 2003, when a different lineup of justices upheld government restrictions on independent political expenditures by corporations during elections.

“Government may not suppress political speech on the basis of the speaker’s corporate identity,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the 57-page majority opinion. “No sufficient governmental interest justifies limits on the political speech of nonprofit or for-profit corporations.”

Ahead, a flood of corporate/union election spending?

The decision opens the gates for what campaign reform advocates warn will be a flood of corporate spending in future elections. The ruling is expected to permit similar political expenditures from the general treasuries of labor unions, as well.

“This is the most radical and destructive campaign-finance decision in the history of the Supreme Court,” said Fred Worthheimer, president of Democracy 21.

“Today’s decision is the Super Bowl of really bad decisions. It returns us to the days of the robber barons,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause.


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