A Welcome Supreme Court Review

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. decried the Supreme Court's decision to hear re-argument in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission -- which could result in corporations being freed to speak in elections after 60 years of government censorship -- as "extreme" and "activist" ["The Real Court Radicals," op-ed, July 13]. But judges are supposed to protect political speech, regardless of the speaker. Our system depends on this sort of principled judicial engagement, even when it means reversing earlier, erroneous Supreme Court decisions.

Corporations, no less than any other association of individuals, deserve the right to speak out about candidates and policies that may affect them. Indeed, media corporations such as The Washington Post Co. already enjoy this right. If Mr. Dionne is worried that businesses will use this freedom to secure favors from the government, the correct response -- the constitutional response -- is to restore limits on the power of government to dispense favors. The First Amendment demands nothing less.



The author is a staff attorney at the Institute for Justice, which submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in Citizens United v. FEC.


E.J. Dionne Jr. bemoaned the potential loss of a "century-old tradition" of banning corporate contributions to candidates in the Supreme Court's rehearing of the Citizens United v. FEC campaign finance case.

Three things are worth noting. First, the court is not considering overturning the Tillman Act of 1907, which prohibited such contributions. Only independent political speech by corporations might be permitted, not contributions to candidates.

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