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Supreme Court (Almost?) Reverses Self In Campaign Ad Case

By June 25, 2007

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In a 5-4 decision, the US Supreme Court ruled today that Wisconsin Right to Life should have been able to run issue ads targeting Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) in the two months prior to the 2004 elections.

McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform "bars corporations and labor unions from using funds from their general treasuries to buy pre- election broadcast ads that target specific federal candidates.

In 2003, the Court upheld the provision that restricts pre-election ads. Today, the Court said that this provision, if applied to the Wisconsin Right To Life ads, would not be constitutional.

The ads urged voters to call Sen. Feingold and Sen Herb Kohl (D-WI), and ask them not to block the President's judicial nominees. Feingold was up for re-election in 2004.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion upholding an appeals court ruling: "Where the First Amendment is implicated, the tie goes to the speaker, not the censor."

Roberts and Samuel Alito believed that the ads were not "explicit campaign ads" and thus not subject to the 2003 ruling. On the other hand, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas believe that the Court's 2003 decision should have been overturned.

Leading the dissent, David Souter believes this decision overturns the 2003 Court decision: "After today, the ban on contributions by corporations and unions and the limitation on their corrosive spending when they enter the political arena are open to easy circumvention." Joining his dissent: John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

Related: Top 10 PACs - 2006; Supreme Court Swing Vote Cases; McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act.

See AP and Bloomberg; WSJ Opinion.

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