A narrow dispute over advertising a documentary about Hillary Clinton has mushroomed into a broad attack on restrictions on corporate and union campaign advertising that have been on the books for decades. The Supreme Court will begin considering the case today.
Citizens United, a non-profit behind “Hillary – The Movie” wanted to run it on pay-per-view and advertise it on television during the Democratic presidential primaries, but the courts determined that it was essentially a 90-minute campaign ad and therefore subject to campaign advertising restrictions.
The conservative wing of the Supreme Court seems to think that the advertising ban in general is an unconstitutional restriction on corporate and union speech, despite the fact that the restrictions have been on the books, in the case of corporations, for over 100 years and have survived court scrutiny before.
John McCain (R-AZ) and Russ Feingold (D-WI), the senators whose names are attacked to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, have been defending the restriction.
But Supreme Court watchers, including the New York Times, believe that the Court is on the verge of a major departure from the past this time. It could have taken a narrow approach dealing only with the advertisement of political documentaries, but instead it has broadened the issue to corporate and union political speech in general, and has accelerated the schedule for Court action.
In fact, when it begins deliberations today, it will be kicking off the new session of the Court about a month early.
RBR/TVBR observation: People thought levels of political advertising in the last two or three election cycles was incredibly high. If the Supremes strike down the corporate restrictions currently on the books, it could make today’s spending look like a pittance.