Banning books?


The Washington Post reported last week that so-called campaign finance reform activists - those who believe we can reduce the influence of money in politics without concurrently confining an activist government to its constitutional boundaries - are pushing the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn its 2010 decision in the Citizens United case.

That was the case, you might recall, in which the justices tossed out portions of the McCain-Feingold law that prohibited outside groups from making certain election-related expenditures as balloting neared.

The 5-4 majority relied on that pesky First Amendment, you understand.

The new vehicle for the reformers is a case involving a Montana Supreme Court decision that seems to contradict Citizens United. The high court will soon decide whether to hear the Montana issue or whether to simply reverse the finding.

And "pressure is being applied," The Post reports, "by members of Congress and nearly half the states, not to mention Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, to at least let Montana make its argument" in the hopes that one justice who was in the majority in Citizens United will reverse course.

This is both troubling and misguided.

Those who continue to attack Citizens United would do well to explain how they justify embracing a law that, as the U.S. solicitor general admitted during oral argument, would allow the government to ban books or pamphlets that advocated for the election or defeat of a political candidate. Critics of the court's ruling - including many left-leaning media outlets - have been embarrassingly silent on this issue, ignoring that the majority decision was properly and soundly grounded in the First Amendment.

"From the day it was issued, this court's ruling in Citizens United has been the subject of sustained, overheated, and sometimes irresponsible attack," says a brief in the Montana case filed by noted First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams. "This is hardly the first time in the court's history that its application of one or another of the provisions of the Bill of Rights has led to such commentary."

The five majority justices in Citizens United stood as a bulwark for freedom against the spectre of government censorship. There should be no need to revisit this issue because the court got it right the first time.

 

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