www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Today's faults -11/26/2014, 7:45 AM

Meatless Mondays -- forget about it -11/26/2014, 7:45 AM

Cosby, serial rapist? That's a lot to forgive -11/26/2014, 7:45 AM

Letting it fly -11/26/2014, 7:45 AM

KanCare oversight -11/26/2014, 7:45 AM

Giving thanks for blessings as Kansans -11/25/2014, 10:11 AM

Local fixes to local problems? -11/25/2014, 10:11 AM

Energy security -11/25/2014, 10:11 AM

Pipeline politics -11/24/2014, 10:04 AM

They killed Peter Kassig -11/24/2014, 10:04 AM

Going from bad to good on election night -11/23/2014, 6:38 PM

Free Speech can be shield or a sword -11/23/2014, 6:38 PM

Dodge City merger -11/22/2014, 6:38 PM

House mis-speaker -11/21/2014, 9:50 AM

Obama vs. Us -11/21/2014, 9:50 AM

Really smart conservatives love public debt -11/21/2014, 9:50 AM

Official welcome -11/20/2014, 9:52 AM

Control freaks in the U.S. -11/20/2014, 1:24 PM

How did we get here? -11/20/2014, 9:52 AM

An open letter to the GOP -11/19/2014, 10:03 AM

Successful farming -11/19/2014, 10:03 AM

Getting personal -11/18/2014, 9:15 AM

Teachers, not facilities -11/18/2014, 9:15 AM

Schoolteachers and the Legislature -11/18/2014, 9:06 AM

Water vision -11/18/2014, 9:06 AM

I see wonderful things -11/17/2014, 9:26 AM

Politics prevail over truth in Kansas elections -11/17/2014, 9:26 AM

Progress at mall -11/16/2014, 5:22 PM

Opinions on the general election -11/16/2014, 5:22 PM

Why are schools afraid of freedom? -11/16/2014, 5:22 PM

Educational fraud -11/14/2014, 9:42 AM

The American public gets smart -11/14/2014, 9:41 AM

State revenue -11/13/2014, 4:48 PM

Staying positive -11/13/2014, 2:14 PM

Democracy delusions -11/13/2014, 2:14 PM

An awesome tribute -11/13/2014, 2:14 PM

Military underpaid -11/12/2014, 2:15 PM

Success for Moran -11/12/2014, 11:54 AM

Shop wisely when you go -11/12/2014, 11:53 AM

2014: The year of no ideas -11/12/2014, 11:52 AM

Veterans Day -11/11/2014, 10:13 AM

A new start for veterans' health care -11/11/2014, 10:13 AM

Awaiting Brownback's mark -11/11/2014, 10:13 AM

Roberts and catcalls heard 'round the world -11/10/2014, 9:18 AM

Honoring all who served -11/10/2014, 9:18 AM

Brownback coalition prevails -11/9/2014, 6:03 PM

Seeing the news is necessary -11/9/2014, 6:02 PM

Immigration reform -11/9/2014, 6:02 PM

Scholar-athlete charade -11/7/2014, 8:32 AM

How about a beer and a short break? -11/7/2014, 8:32 AM

Fighting poverty -11/7/2014, 8:32 AM

Voting his mind, apparently -11/6/2014, 9:51 AM

Electing liberty -11/6/2014, 9:50 AM

UNC's troubles -11/6/2014, 9:50 AM

Fast-food pay -11/5/2014, 2:32 PM

Oil, natural gas driving security -11/5/2014, 10:20 AM

Ellis' future -11/5/2014, 10:19 AM

Family ties -11/5/2014, 10:19 AM

Quarantine questions -11/4/2014, 10:03 AM

Counting non-voter votes -11/4/2014, 10:03 AM

Low blows -11/4/2014, 10:03 AM

Take country back -11/3/2014, 4:36 PM

Big First Tea Party endorses Roberts -11/3/2014, 4:36 PM

Changing times -11/3/2014, 4:27 PM

Elect an Independent -11/3/2014, 4:27 PM

Leiker excels -11/3/2014, 4:27 PM

Watching decline -11/3/2014, 4:27 PM

Lack of respect -11/3/2014, 9:58 AM

Holding memories for Aunt Millie -11/3/2014, 9:53 AM

Playing the game -11/3/2014, 9:53 AM

Vote responsibly -11/3/2014, 9:53 AM

Sherow is change -11/3/2014, 9:53 AM

Silly season and cynical strategies -11/3/2014, 9:52 AM

No endorsement -11/3/2014, 9:52 AM

Thank you, Hays -11/3/2014, 9:52 AM

Another Koch division? -11/2/2014, 5:09 PM

A Matter of truth -11/2/2014, 5:09 PM

-11/2/2014, 5:09 PM

Leiker for House -11/2/2014, 5:08 PM

Bottom of barrel -11/2/2014, 5:08 PM

Candidate asks for support -11/1/2014, 5:09 PM

Roberts serves Kansas -11/1/2014, 5:09 PM

Face of the experiment -10/31/2014, 4:36 PM

Leiker fits the bill -10/31/2014, 4:18 PM

Ellis has a choice -10/31/2014, 3:06 PM

Health-care truth -10/31/2014, 2:55 PM

Dropping the ball -10/31/2014, 2:55 PM

Governor's tricks -10/31/2014, 2:44 PM

Ballot measures -10/31/2014, 11:10 AM

Marijuana debate -10/30/2014, 2:44 PM

Republican crossover -10/30/2014, 2:35 PM

Roberts not the answer -10/30/2014, 10:25 AM

See the signs -10/30/2014, 10:23 AM

Incumbents always win -10/30/2014, 10:23 AM

Convention center -10/30/2014, 10:23 AM

Schodorf for SOS -10/30/2014, 10:14 AM

Supermarket shenanigans -10/29/2014, 10:19 AM

Americans can fix the Senate -10/29/2014, 10:19 AM

A plea to city commissioners -10/28/2014, 8:58 AM

Having no price tag -10/28/2014, 8:58 AM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

Sliding down the slippery speech slope

Published on -6/21/2012, 9:09 AM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

It's presidential season, so again pundits are indignant that money is spent on politics. Spent by corporations! And rich people! Because the Supreme Court allowed that, "2012 will be a miserable year," wrote the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne

It might be a miserable year -- but if it is, it won't be because corporations spend on politics. And anyway, they have a right to spend.

In politics, money is speech.

The very first amendment that the Founders chose to add to the Constitution couldn't be more clear: "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech ..."

Yet most people support laws against political speech -- when they don't like the speakers.

Asking government to regulate political speech is a poisonous idea. Politicians naturally think that people who challenge their power should be restrained. Sen. John McCain led the majority who championed "campaign finance reform" that, among other things, forbade anonymous donors to run ads in the crucial weeks just before elections (when most voters finally pay attention).

My ABC colleagues loved McCain-Feingold. Some conservatives think journalists like the law because it exempts media corporations. But I think it goes back to our gut instinct that corporations are bad and rich people spending money to influence politics is very bad.

But political (and religious) speech is exactly what the Founders were eager to protect when they wrote the First Amendment. It has been nice to watch the Supreme Court overrule McCain-Feingold piece by piece.

In 2008, a court ruled that TV ads for a nonprofit corporation's critical documentary about then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton violated McCain-Feingold. When the Supremes overturned that ruling, saying that corporations and unions may fund political ads, the mainstream media were so upset, they sounded like there had been a coup.

The New York Times said the decision "strikes at the heart of democracy." The Washington Post quoted someone saying it "threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions."

Please.

The swing justice, Anthony Kennedy, was right to say: "When Government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought. This is unlawful."

He also said, "Political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it."

The American Civil Liberties Union agreed, but most progressives condemned the Supremes for "judicial activism." I thought progressives favored free speech. I was wrong.

People's stance on free speech often depends on whose ox is gored. In condemning the decision, the offended progressives engaged in amazing mental contortions. It "was wrong because nothing in the First Amendment dictates that corporations must be treated identically to people," said the editorial in The Washington Post. Don't progressives realize that corporations (and unions, which also had their speech rights protected) are associations of individuals -- individuals who have rights? Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was mocked when he said, "Corporations are people."

But Romney was right.

One need not be a fan of corporations to see that restricting anyone's speech is dangerous. One government lawyer said that even corporate-funded books favoring candidates could be illegal. That should scare progressives -- the Federal Election Commission put an anti-Bush book written by George Soros under scrutiny. Laws limiting speech have been used more often against radicals than against the corporate establishment.

But the progressives' campaign goes on. The Supreme Court right now is revisiting this issue because Montana's Supreme Court ruled that Montana can ban corporate spending on state politics. Sens. McCain and Sheldon Whitehouse filed a friend-of-the-court brief claiming that allowing corporate speech would bring a "strong potential for corruption and perception thereof."

Right, as though politicians don't routinely constitute a "potential for corruption" all by themselves.

It is shameful that leftists let their hatred of corporations lead them to throw free speech under the bus. There is a smarter way to get corporate money out of politics: Shrink the state. If government has fewer favors to sell, citizens will spend less money trying to win them.

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network and author of "Give Me a Break" and of "Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity."

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos

AP Breaking News