Free speech and the Supreme Court

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It looks like there may be a serious push for a serious judiciary in the Badger State. After years of watching our system of checks and balances be corrupted by corporate whores and people who don’t believe in the constitution (Uncle Sam’s version or our own), the Democratic legislature looks poised to change the rules for the better.

The Assembly Committee on Elections and Campaign Reform approved a pair of sweeping campaign finance reform bills during an executive session this morning.

The committee approved AB 63, which would increase reporting requirements for groups running so-called “issue ads,” by a 6-1 vote, and forwarded AB 65, which would create public funding for Supreme Court elections, by a 4-3 party line vote.

The campaign finance provision is important. What would be even better would be the abolition of Supreme Court races, however, getting the WMC out of the picture would be a good start nonetheless. In case you don’t remember, Michael Gableman, the newest addition to the court, won election back in 2008 by celebrating his opposition to the right of a defense for the accused, paid for, of course, by WMC.

The third party ads are frankly a very hazy affair. The line between free speech infringement and reasonable campaign finance regulation is somewhat arbitrary. Yes, the vast majority of issue ads aired are put out by groups that are essentially fronts for political parties or candidates. However, once we begin restricting the use of the media by advertisers, why can we not also restrict use of the media by the journalists themselves? If a paper endorses a candidate, is that “campaigning” that’s subject to restriction? Most would say no, because the paper was probably not set up for a specific political purpose – but some are. Take the Washington Times, for instance. Set up by the leader of a religious cult who also happened to be virulently anti-communist, the Times is now a hub for D.C. right wing propaganda.

Most liberals would respond to this dilemma by saying that there are reasonable restrictions on the media, such as the Fairness Doctrine, which used to mandate news providers to give “both sides of the story” of a political issue. Frankly, that policy is absurd. There are never two sides of an issue, there are thousands, and in the world of new media, it is harder than ever to determine what is a news source and what isn’t. I don’t consider Fox News a source of the news, hence, I do not believe it should be required to give a “fair and balanced” view of every topic it covers, from Obama being a closet Muslim to Natalie Holloway’s disappearance.

Ironically, the solution to both issues I believe to be one and the same: more public financing. Just as campaigns should be publicly financed, so should an increasing number of media outlets. The corporate ones should not be abolished, but they should have to compete with good, responsible news services provided by the state to the people. Most other Western countries have such a system and we should too. The fall of the old media during the recession demonstrates just how corporate it has become – and how dependent it is on catering to its benefactors. This can’t be the only way journalism is run – blogs are important, but so is government participation.

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One Response to “Free speech and the Supreme Court”

  1. If politicians don’t get enough of your $ already, then give them (and the media) more! « RandyMelchert.com Says:

    […] media) more! Filed under: Campaign Finance, Judiciary — randallmelchert @ 1:43 pm The Sconz is advocating “AB 65, which would create public funding for Supreme Court elections, by a 4-3 […]

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