Too slippery a slope

March 29, 2009

The U.S. Supreme Court must use a case before it to assert the primacy of the First Amendment over campaign finance "reform."

The justices heard oral arguments Tuesday last in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The case centers on "Hillary: The Movie," a 90-minute documentary by conservatives that was quite critical of the then-Democrat presidential candidate.

A conservative group wanted to make the production, which played in just six theaters in early 2008, available through a video-on-demand service. At issue is whether the movie represents campaign "advocacy" forbidden by McCain-Feingold.

But this is an incredibly slippery slope, no matter if the producers and their subjects were conservatives or liberals. The First Amendment says what it means and means what it says. Free speech is just that -- free -- and just because speech is "political" is no warrant for government to circumscribe it through what's, in effect, prior restraint.

The oral arguments made clear that if the justices rule against Citizens United, even campaign biographies could be banned. Where does this government tyranny end?

The Supreme Court can -- and must -- strike a powerful blow for the First Amendment by ruling for Citizens United. Otherwise, this slippery slope will become a muddy morass.