In a number of Constitutional, tort and media law courses, I learned that the majority opinions of the Supreme Court of the United States more times than not make perfect sense – if you bother to read them.
The classic example of this is: the Supreme Court in Murray v. Curlett never said children can’t pray in school. The Court said children can’t be FORCED to pray in school – which, of course, is their constitutional right. In another decision, the Court ruled that school regents could not write a prayer for student use, again constitutional.
In Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission, the question before the Court was “whether a politically charged film could be defined as a campaign ad under the bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, commonly known as the McCain-Feingold Act.”
This, then, is essentially a First Amendment case with the full court concurring with Mr. Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion.
It is in the other opinions, with various justices concurring and dissenting, that lobbyists got a big break – at the expense of candidates, political parties and you, the voter. See The New York Times, 22 January 2010: LINK
I was interested in Michael Moore’s comments on yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling because he makes the same sort of documentary which lies at the center of this case. Yes, Mr. Moore has been known to stretch the truth and, yes, he has used his films to attempt to influence elections. Interestingly, the headline on his Web site reads,”Supreme Court throws out crucial campaign finance law, opens floodgates to unlimited corporate cash.” He makes no mention that the decision protects both the films he creates and his influence.
All the ramifications of this ruling aside, let me call your attention to the closing paragraphs of the New York Times article linked above:
“ … David Bossie, the conservative activist who brought the case to defend his campaign-season promotion of the documentary ‘Hillary: The Movie,’ said he was looking forward to rolling out his next film in time for the midterm elections.
“Titled ‘Generation Zero,’ the movie features the television host Lou Dobbs and lays much of the blame for the recent financial collapse on the Democrats.”
Nobody naïve here. We all know campaign ads distort, misinform and lie. We get ‘swift-boating.” But, there’s something downright disheartening when the Supreme Court gives its stamp of approval to the continuing corruption of our election process.
Brace yourself. We cannot imagine what big money will do to the November elections. Thank goodness, I disconnected my cable TV.
Read the Court’s opinions on SCOTUS’ Web site HERE. I found the Wikipedia entry on this decision to be concise, accurate and easier to read, go HERE.