A victory for free speech

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The Supreme Court today ruled by a 6-to-3 margin that Vermont's stringent limits on campaign expenditures and contributions are unconstitutional infringements of the First Amendment.

Hurray! Alas, there were six separate opinions filed. Chief Justice John Roberts may be trying to winnow down the number of separate concurring and dissenting opinions, but in this case he did not succeed (though he filed no opinion himself). But rightly so, in my view; I think Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, got it right in his separate concurrence. Thomas argues that the 1976 precedent of Buckley v. Valeo, to the extent it allows contribution limits, is an unconstitutional infringement of the First Amendment. But Thomas didn't have five votes, and so our First Amendment jurisprudence still stands for the proposition that the Founding Fathers intended to give blanket protection to nude dancing, student armbands, and flag burning—but not to political speech. If only we could channel James Madison and ask him if that was what he had in mind.