Today in a major decision upholding free speech, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 striking down aggregate limits on federal campaign contributions.
While you may have heard a parent or a teacher say it, what the Supreme Court essentially held today is that the federal government is not allowed to tell you: you talk too much.
Political speech has always been held in the highest regard in constitutional law. Restrictions on political speech were the impetuous for the free speech protections in the Bill of Rights. The Founders pledged their honor, the livelihood, and even their lives to ensure that political speech would be protected.
Congress sought to limit that protection under the euphemistic name of campaign finance reform, limiting the maximum anyone could give to all federal candidates in a particular election cycle to $123,000. While almost every American will never reach that particular limit in giving, the dollar amount is beside the point. It is a limit on speech, and if the government can limit political speech to a particular dollar amount, it could limit it or any other form of speech. The government doesn’t get to decide when you have said enough, when you shouldn’t talk any more.
As the majority in McCutcheon v. FEC so eloquently put it, “The Government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candidates it may endorse.”
The Court limited its decision to the aggregate contribution limit, but that’s because only the aggregate limit and not the individual limits were before the Court. Justice Thomas however would have gone all the way striking down limits on campaign speech and the Supreme Court’s decision previously upholding those limits, which he says “denigrates core First Amendment speech and should be overruled.”
Today’s decision protects free speech even when the government thinks you said your piece. Our right to speak is not limited to 140 characters; it’s not limited to a certain number of syllables, paragraphs, or dollars spent.
I’m sure the Left and the liberal mainstream media will disagree and take up plenty of ink in the next few days and weeks doing so. And that’s their right. They can bloviate to their hearts content about how evil it is to allow someone to spend all they want to say what they want. Ironic as it is, it’s America, and it’s their absolute right to take to the airwaves and 24-hour cable news channels railing about this opinion.
I’m happy knowing my rights, and theirs alike, are protected for as long as we want to speak.
Matthew Clark is an associate counsel with the ACLJ in Media and Government Affairs.
Used with the permission of the ACLJ.