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Wednesday, January 24, 2007 

Another Crack at McCain-Feingold

Tony Mauro has a great article posted over at the First Amendment Center about the recent grant by the Supreme Court to hear FEC v Wisconsin Right to Life. A little commentary on the article...
When President Bush signed the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act in 2002, he did so with reservations. The law, he said, presented "serious constitutional concerns."
Bush never should have signed the law if he had such serious constitutional concerns. I understand the political reality of the situation. I know that most people think McCain-Feingold is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Personally, I think it's just slightly better than cholera. It's a mess of a law that abridges political speech.

Here is the background on the case...
At issue in Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life is a series of ads financed by the Wisconsin anti-abortion group in 2004. The ads criticized by name Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, both Democrats, for blocking Bush's judicial nominees. But because Feingold was running for re-election, the messages ran afoul of the law, which bans messages referring to clearly identified candidates within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary -— if those messages are financed directly by corporations or unions. The law allows such ads if they are paid for by corporate or union political-action committees, which are governed by greater regulation and disclosure rules.
Just so everyone's on the same page, the ads told people to call Feingold and Kohl and tell them to stop blocking judicial nominees. They didn't say "don't vote for Feingold," "Feingold sucks," or any other number of things that you'd hear out of my mouth. However, the law would cover those ads that WI Right to Life ran.

In case you are wondering, the McCain-Feingold law has quite a legal team defending it in this case. Solicitor General Clement will be arguing on behalf of the government (as is his job). McCain and friends have hired former SG Seth Waxman to It's rare that I root against Solicitor General Clement, but I'm hoping that he really drops the ball on this case. James Bopp will be arguing on behalf of WI Right to Life. I don't know much about him aside from what's in his bio. I will be cheering him on though.

McCain-Feingold was originally upheld by a narrow 5-4 ruling. Justice O'Connor joined the liberals on that one. There is hope that the additions of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito will be enough to swing the vote the other way. I'd love to see the entire law gone, but I'll be happy with a lot of these as applied challenges succeeding and gutting the law that way.

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