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Pro & Con #8: Is the Supreme Court Right to See Money as Speech?

In this hypothetical example, Andy McFearless, an incumbent Republican, is running for president in the 2020 presidential election. McFearless was getting big money from supporters. The supporters were giving him large sums of money greater than $25,000 dollars. Due to these big checks from big donors, McFearless won the election by a landslide. However, Mandy SkyRaider, the frontrunner of the Democratic Party, is also running for president in the 2020 presidential election. SkyRaider does not have supporters giving her large sums of money greater than $25,000 dollars. SkyRaider feels like the election is rigged because she doesn’t have the same supporters as her competitor, McFearless, does. Due to theses big checks from big donors to McFearless and hardly any support for SkyRaider, McFearless won the election by a landslide.

This fictional example poses the question, “Is the Supreme Court right to see money as speech because limiting money will provide a fair playing field for every presidential candidate?” The answer is twofold. If the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is right to deem money as speech, several benefits exist. First, the populous of the United States have a right to express themselves. Second, spending to communicate a political view is considered as free speech. Third, limiting speech is unconstitutional. However, if the Supreme Court is wrong to see money as speech, it will present several consequences. First, our politics could be washed away in the interest for money. Second, big money can erode one-man-one-vote. Third, limits protect everyone’s right to be heard. Therefore, in the interest of protecting the 1st amendment right, the Supreme Court is right to deem money as speech because the populous of the United States have a right to express themselves, The history of campaign finance laws points to the fact that SCOTUS should limit how much each supporter is giving to a political office to make it a fair playing field for all the political candidates running for a local, state, or national offices, spending to communicate a view is free speech, and finally limiting speech is unconstitutional.

First, if SCOTUS is right to deem money as speech, it will give the citizens of the United States freedom to express themselves. If SCOTUS does not see the right to deem money as free speech, the government can trample over the right to free speech and suffocate the atmosphere of freedom. however, not seeing money as free speech will provide limits that will provide equal and fair playing field for all the candidates running for local, state, or national offices. This presents a compromise. SCOTUS should see the right to deem money as free speech but limit how much each supporter is giving to a political office. Therefore, SCOTUS needs to limit how much each supporter is giving to a political office to better promote health democracy and an equal chance to express one’s political ideology.

Second, The history of campaign finance laws points to the fact that SCOTUS should limit how much each supporter is giving to a political office to make it a fair playing field for all the political candidates running for a local, state, or national offices and also not suppress the citizens’ right to political speech through donating to a particular political campaign. This can be seen through the cases of Buckley v. Valeo, McConnell v. F.E.C, and Citizens United v. F.E.C. The F.E.C stands for the Federal Election Committee. In the case of Buckley v. Valeo, the ruling was that “ ‘A restriction on the amount of money a person or group can spend on political communication during a campaign necessarily reduces the quantity of expression’ even though the clear intent of the First Amendment is to protect political speech” (Jillson, 2018, p. 256). This ruling dramatically affected the future of campaign finances. The next case that was petitioned against the Supreme Court was the case of McConnell v. F.E.C. this court ruling for McConnell v. F.E.C is that money is not free speech and prohibited soft money contribution by wealthy donors and interests, as well as limiting the issue ads thirty days before primaries and sixty days before general election. This was in the 2002 McCain-Feingold Act. In 2009, the final case petitioned against the government was the case of Citizens United States v. Federal Election Commission. In this case later in 2010, the SCOTUS struck done most of the McCain-Feingold limits on corporate and unions campaign contributions. Through these case studies, it proves that SCOTUS should see the right to deem money as political speech but limit how much each supporter is giving money to a political candidate to create a fair playing field for all the candidates running for local, state, or national elections. This will still give the populous a little more freedom to express their political ideas through donating money to a political campaign.

Third, spending to communicate a view is considered part of free political speech. Scholars view spending money to communicate a view is part of political speech. Political speech is guaranteed under the first amendment. Pilon concluded that campaign finance reforms would “almost certainly compromise political speech and hence the First Amendment” (Pilon, 1999, para 5). Pilon also debunked the myth that money “corrupts politics. Pilon stated, “The fear repeatedly heard, of course, is that money ‘corrupts politics. In response, Congress severely restricted the amount of money that any one individual or group can give to a candidate.” He is right that the government is suppressing our right to communicate our view through donating to a political party. Therefore, spending to communicate a view is considered part of free political speech because further restrictions on the United States campaign donations will further compromise free speech.

Fourth, limiting speech is unconstitutional. Limiting speech is unconstitutional because it violates one of the most basic human right which is the right to free speech. However, limits can allow the political candidates a fair playing ground at the sacrifice of free speech. Professor Smith stated in a Learn Liberty video, “if the government controls the money, it controls free speech” (Smith, 2012). For this reason, spending money interferes with the citizens’ right to free speech. If citizens cannot buy any material to communicate their view, they are restricted from exercising their right to free speech. It is also unconstitutional because of the first Amendment. The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances” (Jillson, 2018, Appendix C-7). According to the First Amendment, spending money limits are abridging the freedom of speech, which makes limiting speech unconstitutional. Therefore, on these grounds, limiting speech is unconstitutional because spending restrictions limits how much citizens can exercise their right to free speech.

In conclusion, I am resolved that SCOTUS is right to deem money as speech. But limiting how much citizens can spend to a political candidate because it makes an equal playing ground for all the political candidates is wrong in the eyes of the constitution. Therefore, limiting how much a person can spend is limiting their exercise to free speech.

References

Jillson, Cal. (2018). American government: political development and institutional change. Routledge; New York.

Smith, Bradley. (2012). Is Money Speech. Learn Liberty. Retrieved from https://www.learnliberty.org/videos/is-money-speech/ 

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