An interesting speech case has been appealed to the Supreme Court and I think the Court will have to decide it promptly.
A conservative advocacy group, Citizens United, asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to take up quickly and decide during the current Term a constitutional challenge to limits on its planned broadcast of ads promoting a movie about Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. Tbe case may also affect promotion of a planned movie about another Democratic candidate for the White House, Barack Obama. A three-judge District Court in Washington refused a week ago to clear the way for unrestricted airing of three ads that promote the first film, “Hillary: The Movie” — a production that the District Court concluded amounts to a declaration that New York Sen. Clinton is not fit for the presidency so voters should not support her. A film that is similar is being prepared about Illinois Sen. Obama, to be ready in June.
One of the key problems in campaign finance law concerns determinations of what constitutes a campaign advertisement that advocates on behalf of, or against, the election of a specific candidate and what is merely non-advocacy political speech. When the speech in question doesn’t look like a 30 second tv ad that says “Citizens United urges you to vote against Hillary Clinton” interpretation gets complicated. My take on this is that the District Court was correct as a matter of statutory interpretation (not that I am an expert on the campaign finance laws) but that the case raises serious questions about the constitutionality of this provision in the law.
It would be ironic, wouldn’t it, if John McCain is the Republican nominee and groups that want to support his candidacy are prohibited by the McCain/Feingold campaign finance law from running ads in an effort to help him.