Another Chance to Undo McCain-Feingold


A case scheduled for argument next month in the Supreme Court provides another opportunity to drive a stake through the heart of the worst part of the abominable campaign finance law, commonly referred to as McCain-Feingold.

The case (Citizens United vs. FEC), comes in the wake of an earlier Supreme Court decision carving out an as-applied exemption for “electioneering communications” (read: issue ads), save where the communication “is susceptible of no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate.”

Welcome as this exemption was and is, the problem, as explained nicely in an amicus brief filed on behalf of ten state broadcasters associations, is that because it requires speakers to make complex and risky decisions about the legality of these ads, the law has a chilling effect on speech.

This case would not have been necessary had the Court done the right thing in 2003, in McConnell vs. FEC, or in 2007, in Wisconsin Right to Life, and thrown out, for its facial unconstitutionality, the whole of the electioneering communications part of the law, Section 203.

In 2002 the Media Institute filed an amicus brief in McConnell, arguing that this aspect of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act was an impermissible restriction on political speech, and in 2007 we filed comments with the FEC, in company with the Thomas Jefferson Center.

Here’s hoping that the current case yields the eradication of this most offensive section of this  odious law.