National Review Online
By Bradley A. Smith
Perhaps the biggest problem with giving the government power to regulate political speech — “campaign-finance reform” — is that that power has been routinely used to try to silence political opposition.
Over the past seven years, many such regulations have been struck down, on First Amendment grounds, in a series of court decisions. The best known of these are the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and the U.S. Court of Appeals decision in SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission. These decisions have increased freedom of speech across the political spectrum — for example, Citizens United allows both corporations and unions to spend money to support or defeat candidates, something unions took great advantage of in the recent Wisconsin recall election.
SpeechNow.org allows anybody to form an independent expenditure committee (what the press has dubbed “super PACs”) to raise money to advocate for the election or defeat of a candidate. Emily’s List v. Federal Election Commission, another important Court of Appeals case striking down federal regulations, was filed by Emily’s List, the influential liberal, pro-Democrat PAC. Nevertheless, many Democrats have openly worried that these decisions will hurt their party at the polls.
Sadly, the response of many Democrats has been to try to discredit these judicial decisions and, worse, to silence conservative and pro-Republican citizens exercising their constitutional rights to free speech and association.
Today, Friday, June 15, at 11:15 a.m. at the American Enterprise Institute, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will offer an address about these threats to free speech, urging Americans to unite and remain vigilant in defending the Constitution (the speech can be watched online here). The senator is expected to call attention to the ways in which the administration is working to undermine free speech through harassment and intimidation, and using regulations and even executive orders to silence political opposition. He is expected to call on Americans of all political stripes to stand up for free speech and to oppose efforts to amend the First Amendment in order to give government the power to regulate political speech.
Over his career, Senator McConnell has established himself as the Senate’s strongest and most principled defender of the First Amendment, opposing both Democratic and Republican efforts at “campaign-finance reform” and other restrictions on speech. His engagement on this issue is truly a call to arms not only for Republicans, but for all those who care about free speech.