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Founders never envisioned law limiting free speech rights

This editorial recently appeared in the Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, Mass.)

On Oct. 8, as the Supreme Court heard arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC, various left-of-center organizations asserted the justices “must” uphold remaining limits on political donations.

Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center, said “aggregate limits are exactly the type of protections the Founders envisioned.”

Closer to home, Masspirg and Common Cause Massachusetts issued a statement urging the justices “to stop handing our democracy over to special interests and wealthy campaign donors.”

These groups regularly lament the supposed ill effects of the 2010 ruling Citizens United v. FEC, which struck down portions of the 2001 McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law.

If McCutcheon finishes what Citizens United began, it will be a victory for the Constitution. For, contrary to Waldman’s claim, the Founding Fathers never envisioned a law to abridge the free speech rights of Americans.

Sure, American politics has changed, and the sums involved in parties and factions promoting their visions grow ever larger. But so do the options Americans have to express their views.

Between the passage of McCain-Feingold and the Supreme Court striking down portions of it, Americans re-elected Republican George W. Bush (2004) and elected Democrat Barack H. Obama (2008).

Following Citizens United — when money allegedly flooded the process — Obama won passage of comprehensive health care reform, and was re-elected (2012).

The role of the Supreme Court is not to do the political will of any one party or faction. It is simply to determine the constitutionality of laws as they pertain to actual controversies.

The remedy for free speech that has led to results one does not like is not to petition a court to restrict the rights of other Americans to spend their money on the political process. No court can grant such relief. The only remedy is still more — and more persuasive — free speech, leading to results one prefers.

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