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Changing The Second Amendment
If retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens had his way; five words would be added to the Second Amendment, which would dramatically change its meanin…

By: James Burns

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Changing The Second Amendment – Video

WASHINGTON (AP) The legality of government surveillance is likely to come before the Supreme Court someday, and Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg appear less than thrilled at the prospect.

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2 long-time friends discuss the First Amendment

Lyle Denniston looks at recent statements from retired Justice John Paul Stevens about limiting gun rights, and a political reality that runs counter to that idea.

As a result of [Supreme Court] rulings, the Second Amendment, which was adopted to protect the states from federal interference with their power to ensure that their militias were well regulated, has given federal judges the ultimate power to determine the validity of state regulations of both civilian and militia-related uses of arms. That anomalous result can be avoided by adding five words to the text of the Second Amendment to make it unambiguously conform to the original intent of the draftsmen. As so amended, it would read: ‘A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear armswhen serving in the militiashall not be infringed.

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, in an opinion column posted online April 11 byThe Washington Post. It is excerpted from his new book,Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution.The article was republishedinThe Poston April 13.

There is an old saying about the Constitution that, like a lot of old sayings, is at least partly an exaggeration: The Constitution is what the Supreme Court says it is. However, that is very close to the truth about the Second Amendment.

From its inclusion in the Constitution in 1791 until 2008, it was not understood to give Americans a personal right to have a gun. And then it changed, in a profound way.

Prior to 2008, there was a public conversation often, in academic writings funded by the National Rifle Association about whether the Amendment should go beyond protecting the arming of state militias, to allow Americans to arm themselves for personal use.

The Supreme Court finally accepted that expanded view, in the 2008 decision inDistrict of Columbia v. Heller. That ruling applied only to federal laws, or to laws enacted in the federal enclave that is the nations capital city. Two years later, though, in the case ofMcDonald v. City of Chicago, the court extended the broad new right nationwide, applying it to state and local laws, too. Both decisions divided the Justices 5 to 4, and Justice Stevens, then on the Court, dissented each time.

It is to be expected, perhaps, that a member of the court might well want, after retirement, to see the Constitution changed so that it reflected the views that the Justice had while on the court. Of course, retired judges, too, have free speech rights, and they can add importantly to public discourse if they continue to speak out.

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Does the Second Amendment need to be amended?



McCutcheon Means “All the Free Speech You Can Buy”
This week In Washington, DC the Supreme Court struck down overall contribution limits on how much individual donors can give to candidates, parties and PACs….

By: Moyers Company

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McCutcheon Means "All the Free Speech You Can Buy" – Video



Attorney Legal Analyst AnneElise Goetz on Free Speech and Campaign Contributions
Free speech, The Bill of Rights and campaign contributions. The political shackles have been lifted from the First Amendment. The United States Supreme Court…

By: The Daily Ledger

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Attorney & Legal Analyst AnneElise Goetz on Free Speech and Campaign Contributions – Video

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) continued his fight to restore the Second Amendment rights of his constituents in Albany by pushing for a repeal of the SAFE Act. Hawley helped force a vote on legislation he co-sponsors (A.6238) in the Assembly Codes Committee, which unfortunately was unsuccessful. While vowing to continue fighting to repeal the SAFE Act, Hawley noted that his bill was defeated by downstate, New York City interests.

I am working hard with my colleagues who cherish the Second Amendment to see the rights enshrined by it restored. We got a vote on legislation that would repeal the SAFE Act, but it was unfortunately voted down by downstate Assembly liberals, said Hawley. They voted to put honest, law-abiding people in jail for exercising their constitutional right to bear arms and protect their families. Their actions have only strengthened my resolve to stand up for the good people of Western New York who should be enjoying their full Second Amendment rights.

As long as the Assembly is controlled by downstate liberals, Hawley recognizes that repeal through legislative means is likely dead on arrival. However, he is hopeful that a lawsuit working its way through the court system will find the SAFE Act unconstitutional when it arrives at the Supreme Court. In the meantime, Hawley vows to continue doing his part to restore the Second Amendment through outspoken advocacy and organizing fellow Second-Amendment enthusiasts.

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Hawley continues push to repeal SAFE Act



C-SPAN Cities Tour – Bend: James Foster “Bong Hits 4 Jesus”
Learn about Morse v. Frederick, the Supreme Court case that tackled free speech in an American high school from James Foster, a political science professor a…

By: C-SPAN

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C-SPAN Cities Tour – Bend: James Foster "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" – Video

Text of Amendment: A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. Origins: Having been oppressed by a professional army, the founding fathers of the United States had no use for establishing one of their own. Instead, they decided that an armed citizenry makes the best army of all. General George Washington created regulation for the aforementioned “well-regulated militia,” which would consist of every able-bodied man in the country. Controversy: The Second Amendment holds the distinction of being the only amendment to the Bill of Rights that essentially goes unenforced. The U.S. Supreme Court has never struck down any piece of legislation on Second Amendment grounds, in part because justices have disagreed on whether the amendment is intended to protect the right to bear arms as an individual right, or as a component of the “well-regulated militia.” Interpretations of the Second Amendment: There are three predominant interpretations of the Second Amendment: The civilian militia interpretation, which holds that the Second Amendment is no longer valid, having been intended to protect a militia system that is no longer in place. The individual rights interpretation, which holds that the individual right to bear arms is a basic right on the same order as the right to free speech. The median interpretation, which holds that the Second Amendment does protect an individual right to bear arms but is restricted by the militia language in some way. Where the Supreme Court Stands:

The only Supreme Court ruling in U.S. history that has focused primarily on the issue of what the Second Amendment really means is U.S. v. Miller (1939), which is also the last time the Court examined the amendment in any serious way. In Miller, the Court affirmed a median interpretation holding that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms, but only if the arms in question are those that would be useful as part of a citizen militia. Or maybe not; interpretations vary, partly because Miller is not an exceptionally well-written ruling.

In Parker v. District of Columbia (March 2007), the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban on grounds that it violates the Second Amendment’s guarantee of an individual right to bear arms. The case is being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller, which may soon address the meaning of the Second Amendment. Almost any standard would be an improvement over Miller.

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Second Amendment – The Text, Origins, and Meaning of the …

THE U.S. Supreme Courts decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission was only out a few minutes before elected officials and campaign-finance reformers began condemning it as another disastrous step toward an American oligarchy.

But Americans should not be alarmed by the ruling. The decision is consistent with the First Amendment and with Americas long tradition of unrestricted political speech.

The case concerned a federal law that restricted how many candidates or political committees a donor could support with a maximum campaign contribution.

Shaun McCutcheon, the plaintiff in the case, contributed the maximum amount to 16 federal candidates, but the law made it a crime for him to contribute a single cent more to another candidate. He sued, arguing that the law violated his First Amendment right to support the candidates of his choice.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court agreed.

The laws demise will have little practical effect. Donors rarely reached the aggregate limit. According to a statement by the Federal Election Commission, only 646 donors reached the biennial limit of $123,200 in 2012. The additional contributions the decision permits will still be subject to limits on how much money someone can contribute to an individual candidate. Moreover, the laws regulating Washington state elections do not have this kind of aggregate limit.

Opponents of the decision argue that it is still wrong, based mainly on slogans like money isnt speech and an ill-founded concern that treating financial contributions as protected under the First Amendment will allow billionaires to buy democracy or drown out the voices of speakers with less money.

In a narrow sense, these opponents are correct about one thing: Money is not speech. But money enables speech, and that is why the right to make political contributions is protected by the First Amendment.

This is an enormous and heavily populated country. The Puget Sound region alone is home to 3 million people. In order to communicate with voters and for voters to hear from candidates, it takes money.

Try publishing a book, making a video or printing a flyer without spending one penny. It cannot be done. This means that if the government can restrict how much money one can spend in disseminating a political message, it can effectively silence any speech that carries beyond the sound of your voice.

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Guest: Supreme Court McCutcheon ruling protects political speech

Last week the Supreme Court overturned federal limits on the total amounts that one person may contribute to candidates and political committees during a single election cycle. The government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candidates it may endorse, the court declared in an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts.

But according to Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote a dissenting opinion that was joined by three of his colleagues, the restrictions challenged in McCutcheon v. FEC are perfectly compatible with the First Amendment, which advances not only the individuals right to engage in political speech, but also the publics interest in preserving a democratic order in which collective speech matters.

The idea that individual rights must be sacrificed for the sake of a vaguely defined collective interest reflects the dangerously broad agenda of campaign-finance reformers, who seek to shape the political debate so that it comports with their own notion of the public good.

Preventing corruption is the traditional justification for limits on campaign donations. As you might expect given his nebulous aim of preserving a democratic order in which collective speech matters, Breyer favors a broad definition of corruption, including not just quid pro quo bribery (such as agreeing to vote for a bill in exchange for a donation) but also undue influence. While everyone understands what bribery entails, undue influence is in the eye of the beholder. On the day McCutcheon was argued, for instance, President Obama worried that it would exacerbate a problem created by the Supreme Courts 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which lifted restrictions on political speech by unions and corporations. The problem, according to Obama: too much speech of the wrong sort.

You have some ideological extremist who has a big bankroll, and they can entirely skew our politics, Obama complained. There are a whole bunch of members of Congress right now who privately will tell you, I know our positions are unreasonable, but were scared that if we dont go along with the Tea Party agenda or some particularly extremist agenda that well be challenged from the right. And the threats are very explicit, and so they toe the line. And thats part of why weve seen a breakdown of just normal, routine business done here in Washington on behalf of the American people.

In short, Obama thinks Citizens United was devastating (as he called it a few days after the case was decided) because it freed his opponents to criticize him and interfered with business as usual in Washington. Many Americans would see those as advantages.

In any case, its clear that Obama views campaign-finance regulation as a way of managing the political debate and keeping it from becoming too extremist, a rationale the court has never endorsed and one that is totally at odds with the First Amendments command that Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.

Similarly, the editorial board of The New York Times, which decries the distorting power of money on American elections, cites the broad ideological change sought by the Koch brothers as a reason to keep the aggregate caps on campaign contributions. To equate the ability of billionaires to buy elections with freedom of speech is totally absurd, Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) opines, while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) bemoans the undue influence of special interests and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) complains that the Supreme Court has chosen to pour even more money into our process and our politics.

As self-financed candidates periodically discover, you cant really buy elections. Even if a candidate is interested only in gaining and retaining power, he has to convince voters he is worthy of their trust.

The undue influence that worries Breyer, Obama, Sanders, McCain and Pelosi is ultimately based on the power of speech to persuade a power Congress is forbidden to regulate.

Continued here:
Free speech vs. protecting rights of collective speech

In striking down the aggregate limits on contributions to candidates, PACs and political parties challenged in McCutcheon v. FEC, the Supreme Court delivered a victory not only to political donors seeking to support more challenges to incumbents, but to everyone who is affected by American politics and law. The reason is a key and often forgotten point about the First Amendment: it protects speech, not speakers.

Freedom of speech is often treated as a contemptible burden in American politics; something that must be endured but not respected. When hateful speech is heard, or a wealthy individual spends huge sums of money on speech we disagree with, we commonly ask why they ought to possess a right that we feel does more harm than good. This was the general reaction to the McCutcheon decision: why does anyone need the right to spend more than $123,000 (the limit declared unconstitutional) on political contributions?

This misses the point by focusing solely on the speaker and ignoring the broader social benefits that result from a free and uninhibited exchange of ideas. Speech is constitutionally protected and unlimited because society benefits from the increased knowledge that is generated by it, and because the government cannot be trusted to decide what speech is “good” and what speech is “bad”. Chief Justice Roberts writes in the McCutcheon decision that “The First Amendment does not protect the government, even when the government purports to act through legislation reflecting “collective speech.”"

The wisdom of this principle has been borne out by history, which teaches us that the power to censor is always used against those who criticize the powerful. This was true a century ago when the government prosecuted pacifists in World War I and communist sympathizers in the Red Scare. It is just as true today, when protestors at political conventions are put in caged “free speech zones”, such as at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and when a majority of the nation’s universities maintain unconstitutional speech codes used to punish criticism, such as occurred in 2007 when Valdosta State University had a student “administratively withdrawn” (expelled) for criticizing the construction of a parking garage on campus.

Speech restrictions of all kinds exist to protect those in power from criticism. In the case of contribution limits, incumbents are protected from challengers. Despite its reputation as a tool of the establishment, money spent on political speech actually creates an opportunity to challenge entrenched political interests by increasing voter knowledge. This is especially valuable for outsider candidates running grassroots campaigns without the aid of connections to the ruling class or major media corporations. Pessimism about politics might lead us to think money spent on political advertising is wasted, but research shows that spending in campaigns is correlated with higher voter turnout and higher levels of public knowledge. This should not be surprising; the more advertisements you see about a candidate, the more likely you are to want to figure out what all the commotion is about and discuss the race with your friends.

This is how unlimited political speech comes to benefit everyone affected by American public policy: through producing a more informed, engaged electorate. Yet when cases like McCutcheon are discussed in the public sphere, they are presented as “wins” for large donors and “losses” for the rest of us.

This is nonsensical – speech is not a zero sum game. We all benefit from the exchange of ideas, regardless of their source. That is why cries of “corporations are not people!” are not an adequate response to the Citizens United decision which allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited sums of money on political speech. The entity speaking does not matter, the speech itself does.

It is an unfortunate indication of our culture’s declining respect for the First Amendment that a ruling which removes an unnecessary restriction on the ability of citizens to participate in the political process is vilified. Perhaps that would begin to change if we recognized that more speech for Citizen A creates ripple effects increasing political participation throughout the system. He often speaks for thousands or millions of others who agree with him, and those who disagree may still be informed or motivated by his message. We must remember that voters are not robots who treat ads as orders, and in this social media age people can nearly instantly respond, rebut, subvert and lampoon the speech with others if the message is false or unpersuasive. And on Election Day, everyone still gets exactly one vote.

The answer to speech is more speech. The First Amendment should mean that the government does not get to say “you’ve said enough.” With McCutcheon v. FEC, the Supreme Court has brought us one big step closer to living up to that ideal.

Luke Wachob is the McWethy Fellow at the Center for Competitive Politics.

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LUKE WACHOB: A victory for free speech, a win for democracy



Money = Free Speech For Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has ruled that limiting campaign contributions is a limit of free speech. The 5-4 ruling was supported by Justice Clarence Thomas, who did not recuse himself in spite of…

By: TheLipTV

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Money = Free Speech For Supreme Court – Video

Two weeks after hearing argument in a case examining whether corporations may be exempted from providing religiously objectionable contraceptives in their employee health plans, the US Supreme Court declined on Monday to take up a case testing whether a commercial photographer in New Mexico has a First Amendment free speech right to refuse to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony. It lets …

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Supreme Court declines case of photographer snubbing gay ceremony



There Ain't No First Amendment As to Religion
LIONEL NY's PIX 11 News Commentary Aired: April 4, 2014 The Supreme Court and Nino Scalia in particular haven't a clue as to what the hell the Establishment …

By: LionelY2K

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There Ain’t No First Amendment As to Religion – Video

Apr 052014

The Supreme Court ruled in McCutcheon that a cap on campaign donations violates freedom of speech. This is a dangerous misunderstanding of the First Amendment and why it exists.

Continued here:
Theres No Right to Buy Elections

Apr 052014

That annoying Amendment No. 1

Every time the Supreme Court rules in favor of the First Amendment in a campaign-finance case, the left recoils in disgust.

The courts 5-4 decision in McCutcheon v. FEC is the latest occasion for the rending of garments and gnashing of teeth. The court struck down the limit on the aggregate amount a donor can give to candidates and political-party committees, ruling it incompatible with First Amendment protections for political expression.

The left pronounced itself outraged. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who has $11 million in his campaign treasury despite being a senator for life, called the decision another step on the road to ruination.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who has enough of a fundraising surplus that he bought jewelry for his donors from his granddaughter, resorted to a thunderous non sequitur in denouncing the decision: All it does is take away peoples rights because, as you know, the Koch brothers are trying to buy America.

The First Amendment is for strippers, flag burners, pornographers, funeral protesters and neo-Nazis, but not for people trying to give money to political parties or candidates.

In his decision for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts noted that contributing to a candidate is political participation just like volunteering for a campaign or urging others to vote. Money in politics may at times seem repugnant to some, Roberts writes, but so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects.

The decision in McCutcheon should have been a slam-dunk. Campaign-finance law limits how much a single donor can give in an election cycle to $5,200 for a federal candidate and $64,800 for a party committee.

The court let these so-called base limits stand on grounds that under the landmark Buckley v. Valeo decision, direct contributions to candidates hold the greatest possibility for creating corruption.

But if you accept the base limits, the aggregate limits on the total anyone can give to candidates in a single cycle ($48,600) and to party committees and PACs in a single cycle ($74,600) make no sense. By the logic of the law, if a contribution to one candidate of $5,200 or less is not corrupting, there should be no fear that a donor giving a couple of dozen candidates that amount will be corrupting. Each of the candidates is receiving the proscribed amount or less.

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That annoying Amendment No. 1 -



The First Amendment Triumphs at the Supreme Court
The First Amendment Triumphs at the Supreme Court.

By: Vijay Bhayani

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The First Amendment Triumphs at the Supreme Court – Video

The intersection of the First Amendment and campaign finance can seem like a murky crossroads. Good news: Help is here to understand what the Supreme Court is up to at this critical legal juncture.

On Wednesday, a divided high court struck down overall campaign contribution limits in a case called McCutcheon v. FEC, the most important political money ruling since the justices 2010 decision in Citizens United. A quick tally shows that this is the sixth time the court under Chief Justice John Roberts has poked holes in legislation designed to stem the flow of money into the election system.

What is the conservative Roberts majority up to? How far do they intend to go?

The best, most concise explanation Ive heard came from Michael Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School. The court narrowed the conception of corruption to an infinitesimally small concept. It needs to be like American Hustle or Abscam handing a suitcase full of money to a member of Congress and getting an explicit agreement to do something, Waldman said on PBS NewsHour. Other than that, Chief Justice Roberts said trying to use your money to get influence with members of Congress is the heart of the First Amendment.

There you have it. Roberts and his four ideological compadres see campaign spending and contributions as a form of expression protected by the First Amendment. One may disagree with that concept, but it is now enshrined in the constitutional law of the land.

The only limiting principle Roberts & Co. seem to perceive to the First Amendments reach in this regard is quid pro quo corruption: when money buys a specific favor from a particular politician. Then cash, checks, and wire transfers cease to be simply political expression and morph into briberythe roguish influence peddling at the heart of the highly entertaining American Hustle and the real-life Abscam sting on which the movie was loosely based.

Congrats to Waldman for providing such a vivid aid for comprehending whats going on in Washington. Condolences to him, the Brennan Center, and other liberal fans of campaign finance restrictions for their losing streak at the Supreme Court, one which will likely continue as long as Chief Justice Roberts commands a majority.

The rest is here:
Understanding the Supreme Court's Campaign Finance Ruling

Opinion Courts

There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leadersand those who govern should be the last people to help decide who should govern. Thus begins the Chief Justices majority opinion in McCutcheon v. FEC. This outcome of this case, decided by the Supreme Court this morning, struck down a law that limited the freedom of Americans to financially associate with the candidates, parties, and political organizations of their choosing.

The case decided today turned on a substantial infringement on our First Amendment right to freely associate.Already, those favoring more political speech restrictions have begun denouncing the decision, armed by Justice Stephen Breyers irresponsible suggestion that McCutcheon eviscerates our Nations campaign finance laws. Theres no serious reading of the Chief Justices opinion that supports such hysterical exclamation.

The case turned on a substantial infringement on our First Amendment right to freely associate the so-called aggregate contribution limit. The aggregate contribution limit should not be confused with base limits. Base limits restrict the ability of any individual to give unlimited sums to a candidate, party, or PAC. Under current law, not affected by McCutcheon, a donor may only give $2,600 to any given candidate for each election, and $5,000 to a political action committee (PAC). Corporate and union contributions to candidates are prohibited, another restriction that was not at issue in todays decision.

The aggregate limit, however, stacked another cap over the base limits, and prevented any donor from, for example, giving the maximum legal contribution to nine candidates in both the primary and general elections. As Chief Justice John Roberts recognized, such a rule is nonsensical. The Government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candidates it may endorse. And it is pretty hard to see how, if the first nine candidates are not corrupted, candidate 10 will be corrupted by the same size contribution.

In a desperate effort to defend the constitutionality of the aggregate limits, the government offered the Court a series of wild hypotheticals, completely unbound from common campaign practice or common sense. These examples, and others suggested at oral argument by Justices Breyer and Elena Kagan, involved elaborate Rube Goldberg giving schemes. These theories all had two things in common either existing regulations made them entirely implausible, or existing regulations made them entirely illegal. Its a testament to how complex the remaining campaign finance regulations are that four Supreme Court justices were unable to recognize how quickly their hypotheticals would place the conspirators involved at the top of the FECs enforcement priorities.

Indeed, as the Chief Justice noted, few states have aggregate contribution limits. Yet, the government could point to zero examples of activity similar to the scary stories in Justice Breyers minority opinion. In response, Justice Breyer suggested that the neer-do-wells are simply too smart and cunning to be caught.

If nothing else, the real takeaway from todays opinion is that federal and state governments are not permitted to squelch First Amendment rights based on a fear that monsters are under the bed. Regulatory advocates both on and off the Court have long credulously accepted wild fears as a substitution for hard facts in this area. This has led to a tremendous regulatory overkill. For example, in recent years, governments have defended contribution limits against the deceased, demanded the donor lists of groups which print nonpartisan voter guides, and forced four citizens to register with the state in order to run $600 worth of radio ads. But from now on, governments will have to defend their campaign finance statutes with grounded, concrete reason and facts not flights of fancy.

For too long, governments have been able to defend constitutional deprivations under flimsy reasoning that would be laughed out of court if applied to a law restricting virtually any other liberty protected by the Bill of Rights. (Can anyone imagine a court refusing a shoplifters release under Miranda merely on the grounds that he might commit, hypothetically, another perhaps even worse crime?; or a court allowing warrantless searches because of the appearance of criminal activity?)

As the Court noted, some may find the existence of money in politics repugnant, but [i]f the First Amendment protects flag burning, funeral protests, and Nazi paradesit surely protects political campaign speech. And if a government wants to regulate such speech it better have a very good reason.

Link:
Former FEC Commissioner: Decision Restores First Amendment

WASHINGTON (AP) Republicans call the Supreme Court's latest ruling on campaign donations a victory for free speech. Democrats say it's more like a win for the wealthy.

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Republicans like campaign money ruling, Dems don't



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