Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Victory for Free Speech

Can independent, non-profit political groups spend their own money on political ads? One might imagine that in a country with free speech, the answer would have to be yes. Amazingly, however, U.S. law restricts such spending. Now, however,

The federal appeals court for the District of Columbia ruled Friday that the government cannot restrict independent political spending by nonprofit groups or political committees, accelerating the judicial rollback of regulations aimed at curtailing the power of money in politics.

The ruling, in Emily’s List v. Federal Election Commission, broadens the field of activity open to groups known as 527s (after that section of the tax code) and other independent outfits like MoveOn.org on the left or Swift Boat Veterans for Truth on the right.

The court's decision is not yet a total victory for free speech, since the decision still prevents 527 groups from coordinating their activities with a candidate or party. This restriction is especially stupid because it is utterly unenforceable, so it merely penalizes those 527s that honor the letter of the law.

Still, the court's decision is a major step in the right direction.

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