Court Gives Special Interests a Backdoor Reprieve

Under the guise of freedom of speech, the Supreme Court on Monday ensured that our next election will be full of special-interest, big-money TV ads close to the election.

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First, let me be clear about this: I am a great supporter of the First Amendment. I'm a journalist, after all, and it protects me and my ilk. It's also important to the country, and our values. So let's stipulate all of that before we get to what the Supreme Court did yesterday.

Under the guise of freedom of speech, the Supreme Court on Monday ensured that our next election will be full of special-interest, big-money TV ads close to the election. You know, the kind we all hate. The kind that turns us off politics. The kind that makes us stay home from the polls rather than vote.

The court yesterday, in a 5-4 decision written by the chief justice, just reopened a loophole in the elections laws that people like Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain worked tirelessly to close. The previous court said that there was little difference to be found between an anticandidate negative ad and an ad that is just against that candidate's positions—without mentioning the candidate by name. In other words, if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it's a duck.

This court doesn't think so. This court thinks that by eliminating these ads close to the election, we're going after the First Amendment.

No, we're not. We are opening the gates for a flood of special-interest-sponsored advertising close to the election—a move that makes the special interests that much more valuable. So we're now telling the same groups whose campaign donations we've restricted that they have a backdoor for their money.

We're not only telling them that—we've also opened the door, paved the way, and invited them back in.