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Worries about the “Stakes” In Wisconsin Right to Life PDF  | Print |  Email
By Bob Bauer   
January 22, 2007

Is Campaign Finance Deregulation Now In Progress?

 

This article appeared on Bob Bauer's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

 

The Supreme Court’s decision to hear Wisconsin Right to Life (WRTL) has moved some to argue that the era of campaign finance deregulation is at hand. Rick Hasen has suggested as much:  he projects the "next step toward a deregulated campaign finance system." He and others suspect that, having politely bided their time, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito may now be ready to take this step. The precise issue before the Court in WRTL—the 30- and 60-day broadcast "black-out" periods for corporations and unions—opens this assault on the campaign finance regulatory structure.


WRTL, while it is an important case, by no means presages a major Court confrontation with the campaign finance laws as a whole. The advertising ban before the Court was always one of the more tenuous provisions of the new law.  Here was a prohibition on independent speech without express election-related content. It was grated onto a law otherwise concerned more centrally—and more defensibly—with candidate and party evasion of limits intended to protect against corrupt bargains with special interests. Imposed with little qualification, and on a theory that "everybody knew" that certain advertising run in the specified periods was, in fact, campaign advertising, this "electioneering communication" ban stirred up more opposition, across a broader community of political actors, than any of the other provisions. 

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