[Updated] U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Free Speech

In a ruling that will have huge implications on the political stage not only this November but for years to come, the United States Supreme Court ruled that freedom of speech includes corporations and unions with regard to political expenditures.

From the Washington Times:

The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations may spend freely to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress, easing decades-old limits on their participation in federal campaigns.

By a 5-4 vote, the court on Thursday overturned a 20-year-old ruling that said corporations can be prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to pay for campaign ads. The decision, which almost certainly will also allow labor unions to participate more freely in campaigns, threatens similar limits imposed by 24 states.

The justices also struck down part of the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill that barred union- and corporate-paid issue ads in the closing days of election campaigns.

Advocates of strong campaign finance regulations have predicted that a court ruling against the limits would lead to a flood of corporate and union money in federal campaigns as early as this year’s midterm congressional elections.

The decision, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, removes limits on independent expenditures that are not coordinated with candidates’ campaigns.

It leaves in place a prohibition on direct contributions to candidates from corporations and unions.

The case also does not affect political action committees, which mushroomed after post-Watergate laws set the first limits on contributions by individuals to candidates. Corporations, unions and others may create PACs to contribute directly to candidates, but they must be funded with voluntary contributions from employees, members and other individuals, not by corporate or union treasuries.

It is likely that, given unions’ almost free reign to use members and their dues on politics, this ruling will put corporate money back into the political fray–especially with so much at stake in 2010 and beyond.

Let the games begin.

UPDATE:

The Queen of Labor, SEIU’s Anna Burger issued a statement condemning the Court’s ruling:

Today the US Supreme Court lifted the floodgates and started dismantling century-old restrictions on corporate electoral activity in the name of the ‘free speech rights’ of corporations—meaning if you are a ‘corporate person’ (aka a CEO or corporate official), you are now free to hit the corporate ATM and spend whatever of your shareholders’ money it takes to elect the candidates of your choice.

Now, that’s rich!  The SEIU and other unions spent an estimated $1 billion of their members’ money on the 2008 elections.

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“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine December 23, 1776

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Filed under political expenditures, United States Supreme Court, USSC

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