Yesterday’s rejoicing that the Supreme Court had affirmed the Second Amendment obscured the important news that it had also affirmed the First.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion that a so-called “Millionaire’s Amendment” forced a candidate “to choose between the right to engage in unfettered political speech and subjection to discriminatory fundraising limitations” and that “the resulting drag on First Amendment rights is not constitutional”.
The “Millionaire’s Amendment” took effect when a Congressional candidate spent $350,000 of his own money on his campaign. It imposed heavier reporting requirements on the candidate and allowed his opponent to raise triple the $2,300 limit from donors and increased the amounts that the opponent’s party could spend on his behalf.
Congress’s stated rationale for sewing this clumsy patch onto the original bill was to counter the perception that a wealthy candidate could “buy” a seat in Congress, as though perception created a compelling enough interest to douse the First Amendment.
This is good news. In all probability, the man appointing the next Supreme Court justices until 2013 will be either the prime perpetrator of McCain-Feingold or the public-funding flip-flopper. At least there’s hope for a few good decisions before one of them turns the Supreme Court into a wrecking ball, knocking down the Bill of Rights, like bowling pins, one by one.