WaPo/AP reports,

The Supreme Court upheld key features of the nation’s new law intended to lessen the influence of money in politics, ruling Wednesday that the government may ban unlimited donations to political parties.

Those donations, called “soft money,” had become a mainstay of modern political campaigns, used to rally voters to the polls and to pay for sharply worded television ads.

Bizarre. Details will follow–that’s the entirety of the report as of this posting.

Update (1029): There’s more at the link above now. It gets worse:

The court also upheld restrictions on political ads in the weeks before an election. The television and radio ads often feature harsh attacks by one politician against another or by groups running commercials against candidates.


The court was divided on the complex issue; five of the nine justices voted to substantially uphold the soft money ban and the ad restrictions, which were the most significant features of the vast new law.

Justices John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O’Connor, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer signed the main opinion barring candidates for federal office, including incumbent members of Congress or an incumbent president, from raising soft money.

The majority also barred the national political parties from raising this kind of money, and said their affiliates in the individual states may not serve as conduits for soft money.

So, not only the right to free speech but that of free associaton are eroded. Wonderful.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John Lemon says:

    This is unbelievable! I was shocked when I first heard this. There is also a subtext to the reporting on this. As of this moment, MSNBC’s “breaking news” headline focuses on the “soft money issue.” The story also highlights the “soft money” story in the first several paragraphs, and doesn’t mention the ban on political ads until later in the story. While both elements of this decision are horrific (money is a form of free speech*), the latter (i.e., the ad ban) is the more direct assault on the First Ammendment. Indeed, it might be the greatest assault on free speech in recent memory (putting all those people whining about porno filters on libraries to shame — I know, it will make it hard for bums to do research on breast cancer). Shouldn’t the political ad ban be at the top of the story – it packs the bigger (at least more direct) punch? I suppose that the media doesn’t mind all that much.

    * Remember Econ 101 folks. Money is a “store of value” — i.e., I worked really hard and saved that work to use another time. Giving money to a campaign, party, etc., means that I am volunteering to work for that campaign — i.e., I’m presenting my stored work value to chip in with announcing my candidates name and policies on a street corner or door-to-door or on the radio! (Liberals will have a hard time with that whole “store of value” thing since money is the root of all evil. Right?)

  2. John Lemon says:

    I forgot to add:

    This decision is soooooo outrageous that it almost makes me want to resume blogging.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Say it ain’t so!

  4. bryan says:

    Talk about your enemies of free speech, look at who signed the majority opinion. thomas? No. Rehnquist? No. Scalia? No. It was the left wing of the court who gutted the FA in this instance.

    The ad ban is less surprising, given that television and radio have traditionally been given less FA protection. Of course, there were a lot of legal authorities who thought the court was retreating from medium-specific standards for free speech. Apparently, they were wrong.

  5. John Lemon says:

    Yeah… Dang right-wing court! All those conservative ideologues quashing free speech and trampling on the rights of homosexuals.

    Oh, wait… that was an old script I was reading from. Sorry.

  6. John Lemon says:

    Breaking News from at 1:00 pm CST.

    People are getting sick from the flu and this worries some people.

    Ted Turner’s dollars at work.

  7. James Joyner says:

    Less for him to give the UN, I guess.

  8. Paul says:

    Lemon you’d have at least one daily visitor! LOL

  9. bryan says:

    It’s the end of the semester, gotta be. The work load lightening up a bit. Good to see the Lemon back.

  10. Glad to see Prof. Lemon lurking about.

    Absolutely disgusted to see the court dicing and slicing the Bill of Rights.