No more limits on special-interest ads

U.S. Supreme Court building

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: Bong hits will have to wait for another day. Unless you find it easier to talk about campaign finance that way. Somehow we doubt that's the case with the members of the Supreme Court. Today the justices substantially relaxed a key restriction on political advertising. Specifically, ads that run in the last weeks before an election.

So if you think you're seeing too many of 'em now, hang onto your hats. 'Cause there are no spending limits either. Our Washington Bureau Chief John Dimsdale reports.


John Dimsdale: The court decided the McCain-Feingold ban on privately-funded issue ads during the final weeks before an election or primary violated the advertisers' right to free speech. The decision was cheered by advocacy groups from the National Rifle Association to the ACLU, as well as business groups and labor unions.

Lawrence Gold is a lawyer for the AFL-CIO:

Lawrence Gold: It really isn't the government's role to tell organizations when they can speak and what they can talk about.

But supporters of limits on money in politics said they were deeply disappointed.

Bob Edgar is the president of Common Cause:

Bob Edgar: This decision will mark the return of millions of dollars of unregulated special-interest money funding scam political ads over and over again right before elections.

In his majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote where the first amendment is implicated, the tie goes to the speaker, not the censor.

That's especially good news for the chief counsel of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Steven Law, who's anticipating challenges of state laws that limit election-related issue ads.

Steven Law: We think overall what this portends is an environment in the Supreme Court that is a lot more hospitable to free speech and to people who want to petition their government.

This ruling leaves in place prohibitions on corporate or union-funded campaign ads in the final weeks before an election. However, some opponents of that ban say the court's endorsement of free speech rights for issue ads gives them an opening to challenge the campaign ad restriction.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

About the author

As head of Marketplace’s Washington, D.C. bureau, John Dimsdale provides insightful commentary on the intersection of government and money for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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