Monthly Archives: April 2010

“Crush Democracy But Save the Kittens: Justice Alito’s Double Standard for the First Amendment”

My new Slate Jurisprudence column begins:

    Since joining the Supreme Court in 2006, Justice Samuel Alito has been the main judicial roadblock to sensible campaign-finance laws. By equating money spent on elections with free speech and expression, in the name of the First Amendment, Justice Alito cast the deciding vote in a series of cases culminating with the Citizens United case opening the spigot for corporate money in elections. He authored a 5-4 decision emphatically rejecting the idea that campaign-finance limits could be justified as a means of preventing the wealthy from using their great resources to skew election outcomes and legislation. Indeed, he’s twice gone out of his way to write separate opinions inviting future litigants to bring challenges to key Supreme Court precedents upholding campaign finance laws. At Wednesday’s oral argument in Doe v. Reed, he alone sounded strident in opposing the disclosure of the names of people signing ballot measure petitions, on grounds that anonymity is part of the right of political expression. He sure sounds like a free-speech zealot.
    Except when it comes to the kittens.

It concludes:

    Congress is now considering undoing some of the damage of Citizens United in the new Disclose Act, just introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Rep. Chris van Hollen, D-Md. Besides strengthening campaign-finance disclosure laws, the law would bar corporations that are foreign-owned or are the recipients of government contracts from spending their general treasury funds on political campaigns.
    Justice Alito will no doubt see the Disclose Act as one more threat to the part of the First Amendment he likes. In his view, the kittens must be kept safe. Democracy, not so much.

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