Change meets its match

A funny thing happened to the concept of ‘reform’ in Washington. Health care is headed for the status quo, and now so is the idea of campaign reform.

In the most awaited decision in this term, the Supreme Court ruled this morning that corporations (and unions) may spend freely to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress. Here’s the full opinion. Warning: It’s 183 pages long.

No surprise here. The court’s decision came on a 5-to-4 vote.

But the court did uphold a few provisions of the campaign contribution law. If a corporation spends more than $10,000 a year for a campaign ad, the names and addresses of anyone contributed $1,000 must be revealed.

And the court upheld that provision that requires non-candidate organizations to identify that they are the ones who paid for the ad.

This case stems from an organization called “Citizens United,” which produced a “movie” called “Hillary: The movie.” But opponents claimed it amounted to a campaign advertisement, and was subject to the expenditure limits. A campaign ad by any other name is still a campaign ad.

The court said “First Amendment standards, however, ‘must give the benefit of any doubt to protecting rather than stifling speech.’

“The censorship we now confront is vast in its reach,” Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his majority opinion.

The more liberal wing of the court, headed by Justice John Paul Stevens said, in effect, “nonsense.”

Neither Citizens United’s nor any other corporation’s speech has been “banned.” All that the parties dispute is whether Citizens United had a right to use the funds in its general treasury to pay for broadcasts during the 30-day period. The notion that the First Amendment dictates an affirmative answer to that question is, in my judgment, profoundly misguided. Even more misguided is the notion that the Court must rewrite the law relating to campaign expenditures by for-profit corporations and unions to decide this case.

If that sounds like someone criticizing “activist judges,” it is.