Supreme Court rules against McCain-Feingold

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The case before the court, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, involved the production of Hillary: The Movie, a documentary produced by a conservative group opposed to Senator Clinton's 2008 bid for the presidency. The dispute regarded the financing of the film, and whether or not it violated federal law.

Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the majority opinion. "The Government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether." Non-profit and for-profit groups are now free from the restrictions of McCain-Feingold, and can more easily produce advertisements and media operations for or against particular candidates or initiatives.

""Our nation's speech dynamic is changing, and informative voices should not have to circumvent onerous restrictions to exercise their First Amendment rights," Justice Kennedy continued.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the dissenting opinion, with Justices Breyer, Ginsberg, and Sotomayor concurring in part. "The Court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. The path it has taken to reach its outcome will, I fear, do damage to this institution."

This decision will no doubt have a tremendous impact on future elections. It also comes at a particularly important time, as the 2010 midterm elections are just around the corner.

Tom Bortnyk is a columnist for the political blog Informed-Dissent.

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that campaign finance laws that restrict donations from corporate entities are in violation of the 1st Amendment. For almost a century, the government has been working actively to regulate campaign contributions in an attempt to halt influence of unions and corporations.

The most significant law on the subject, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, also known as the McCain-Feingold Act, placed strict limitations on campaign contributions. Lower courts have upheld campaign finance regulation in two seperate cases, McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, which relied on the precedent set by Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce. These decisions held that corporate donations to influence candidates and the electoral process did not constitute speech, and could thus be regulated by the government.

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