The Spectacle Blog

Re: Free Speech Victory

By on 6.26.06 | 4:20PM

John, we just made sure to cover all the angles.

But if this is the ceiling for campaign finance regulation in the new Roberts Court, I would sure like to find the floor. Among those voting to overturn the Vermont law, there is an acceptance of the general principle that campaign expenditures are a form of free speech. You don't hear any of the nonsense about battling the corrupting influence of money.

I will also remain optimistic because of Alito's opinion -- the respondents were playing on the wrong field to overturn anything: McCain-Feingold or Buckley. I'll wait until a case takes on the campaign finance "legal universe" and see what happens.

Re: Free Speech Victory

By on 6.26.06 | 3:52PM

Didn't see your post before putting mine up, Dave, and I hope readers will forgive the redundancy. But I wouldn't get your hopes up too high, based on this decision, that McCain-Feingold is in trouble. Election Law blogger Rick Hansen argues that this is "about the best decision that (realistic) supporters of campaign finance regulation could have hoped for from the new Roberts Court." I'd quibble with Hansen's analysis a bit (Roberts and particularly Alito's deference to the Buckley precedent doesn't necessarily indicate that they'll never find contribution limits unconstitutional), but he's surely right that "Battles will rage across the country over the constitutionality of particular contribution limit laws."

A First Amendment Victory

By on 6.26.06 | 3:29PM

The Supreme Court has overturned Vermont's draconian caps on campaign contributions and expenditures in Randall v. Sorrell (.pdf). As usual with campaign finance cases, the Court's divisions are complicated -- and, given the addition of Roberts and Alito since 2000's McConnell v. FEC, interesting.

Breyer wrote the plurality opinion, ruling that Vermont's law is inconsistent with 1976's Buckley v. Valeo, which overturned limits on campaign expenditures but allowed limits on campaign contributions; he was joined by Roberts. The holding on expenditure limits is straightforward (they aren't constitutional), while the holding on contribution limits is less so: Vermont's contribution limits are held to be so low that it crosses some threshold that the limits at issue in Buckley did not.

Free Speech Victory

By on 6.26.06 | 2:49PM

The Supreme Court today struck down Vermont's excessively restrictive campaign finance law, by a 6-3 vote (Randall v. Sorrell). Breyer joins the usual group of five: Alito, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy.

Despite that unlikely grouping, the opinions are scattershot. The plurality (Breyer and Roberts) argues that the Vermont law fails to meet the principles set forth in Buckley v. Valeo (1976), and upholds that precedent. Alito concurs in part with the plurality, but differs where it speaks highly of stare decisis and the Buckley precedent. But since respondents did not fully make the case that the Court should revisit Buckley, he would not consider it.

Ethically Challenged Congress

By on 6.26.06 | 2:27PM

The headline on page three of the Wash Post says it all: "Call for Lobbying Changes Is A Fading Cry, Lawmakers Say." Subhead: "Calming of Political Storm Cited as Reason for Attitude Shift."

Re: Prosecute the Times?

By on 6.26.06 | 2:01PM

Gonzales is right that it is premature to talk about going after the Times directly, for a number of reason. But I don't see why the reporters involved in breaking these stories shouldn't be subpoenaed to reveal their sources. Some have argued that these leaks haven't been particularly damaging, and I hope they're right. But surely no one will argue with a straight face that they've been less damaging than the outing of Valerie Plame.

Prosecute the Times?

By on 6.26.06 | 12:50PM

AG Gonzales was on Rush's show a few minutes ago. When asked about prosecuting the NYT for publishing classified information, he said, it's, "...way premature to be talking about prosecution of the New York Times." In other words, the administration is going to let the NYT continue to publish anything it wants, leakers to leak anything about this war, and no secrets can be kept except by America's enemies. This makes me sick.

Your Tax Money at Work

By on 6.26.06 | 10:26AM

According to the father of a cadet who called me yesterday, the New York Times -- Enemy of the State, publisher of our nation's most closely-held secrets -- is distributed to each cadet at West Point every weekday. Doesn't it make you proud to know your tax money is hard at work?

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