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Supreme Court fails to show ‘judicial restraint’

The U.S. Supreme Court didn’t merely strike down a central part of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, overturn two of its own recent decisions and overrule a federal law that was more than 60 years old. It leaped for an excuse to do so. …

The McCain-Feingold bill was fundamentally about the funding of campaign ads on television. But the issue that came before the court was about a movie an anti-Hillary Clinton diatribe that was designed to test the law.

The court could have overruled all restrictions on that movie without going after McCain-Feingold, much less older law.

The court resolutely set aside its alleged commitment to “judicial restraint.” Recent conservative nominees have insisted they believe in in deciding what is necessary and at hand, not in reaching out; that they believe in deferring to legislatures where possible and to prior decisions.

Chief Justice John Roberts likened himself to a mere “umpire.” But this is a redesign of the game. …

At any rate, the court is not convincing in its argument that rules restricting corporate entities in politics amount to limits on speech. The people who own or work for corporations have remained as free as anybody to participate in politics.

Even the corporations themselves have always been free to proselytize in all manner of ways: issuing statements, holding press conferences, whatever. Under McCain-Feingold, the idea was not to squelch them, but to put them under the same kind of restraints in fundraising as the candidates. …

The Dayton Daily News, Jan. 22