This column presents facts regarding the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Wisconsin State Constitution, and various other documents in reference to modern topics. Mark hopes to encourage interest in those works so that others can consider whether our government is practicing within its constitutional limits. In the last category, he may indicate his opinion. Mark is a resident of New Berlin. Readers are encouraged to visit the following sites for more information on the United States Constitution and Thomas Jefferson's views on politics and government.
Washington Times September 10, 2009(full article available on-line)
The argument was extraordinary in its timing, length and participants. It took place during the court’s summer break, almost a month before the start of the new term in October; lasted more than 90 minutes instead of the usual hour; and featured the Supreme Court debuts of Justice Sonia Sotomayor and the solicitor general, Elena Kagan.
It was, moreover, a rare re-argument. When the case was first heard in March, it centered on whether the restrictions on corporate spending in the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law applied to the documentary “Hillary: The Movie,” which was produced by a nonprofit advocacy corporation called Citizens United. In the request for re-argument, the court raised the much broader question of whether it should sweep away restrictions on political speech by corporations.
The McCain-Feingold law bans the broadcast, cable or satellite transmission of “electioneering communications” paid for by corporations in the 30 days before a presidential primary and in the 60 days before the general election. The law requires the government, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said, to make an array of distinctions — among speakers, what they say and when they say it — that raise serious First Amendment concerns.
The court could rule in favor of Citizens United without making fundamental changes to the political landscape. It could say that the McCain-Feingold law was not meant to address 90-minute documentaries like the one at issue. It could say that the way Citizens United wanted to distribute the documentary, on a cable video-on-demand service, was not covered by the law. Or it could, as Ms. Kagan suggested, carve out some kinds of corporations.
Ms. Kagan disavowed a statement that a government lawyer made when the case was first argued in March. The lawyer said the government could ban the distribution of books paid for by corporations before elections.
“The government’s answer has changed,” Ms. Kagan said, adding that the Federal Election Commission had never tried to regulate distribution of books.
Chief Justice Roberts bristled at that statement. “We don’t put our First Amendment rights in the hands of F.E.C. bureaucrats,” he said.
He then asked about pamphlets. “A pamphlet would be different,” Ms. Kagan said. “A pamphlet is pretty classic electioneering.”
Elena Kagan vs. The First Amendment
US Constitution, First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
We the People:
Chief Justice Roberts’ comment was as insightful as it was brief. Indeed the right of speech is among those provided by our creator. It is not granted by the federal government, so the F.E.C. cannot regulate it. Ms. Kagan was demonstrating her logic against speech in pamphlets, which she could use as a Supreme Court Justice.