WASHINGTON (Talon News) — Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Clinton, argued before a special session of the Supreme Court on Monday that the campaign finance reform passed by Congress restricts First Amendment free speech rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
Starr, speaking on behalf of those opposed to the law, said the new campaign finance rules “intrude deeply into the political life of the nation.” He added that the new law “goes too far.”
The urgency of this case has caused the justices to return to Washington sooner than their usual October start. The ramifications of their ruling will have an impact on the 2004 elections and beyond.
The myriad of groups opposed to the new campaign finance reform law crosses the political spectrum. From the American Civil Liberties Union to the National Rifle Association, the opponents of the law say “soft money” restrictions and political advertising limits on the eve of an election unconstitutionally limit the free speech rights of Americans.
Additionally, Starr believes the law prevents grassroots campaigns and other local political efforts from making an impact on elections as they have in the past.
Justice Antonin Scalia agreed with Starr’s assessment of the new law.
“The right to speak includes the right to speak in association with others,” he asserted.
But not all of the justices concurred with Scalia’s statement.
“We have never held that,” quipped Justice John Paul Stevens, who has been on the Supreme Court longer than any other justice currently serving.
The case of McConnell v. FEC has long been expected to be a landmark decision by the Supreme Court regardless of how they rule. Their interpretation of the campaign finance reform law drafted by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) should be decided by the end of the year.
However, the law remains in effect as written until a decision by the high court is made.
“The 2004 campaign is not waiting for the starting gun,” remarked John Podesta, a Democrat Party advisor who served as President Clinton’s chief of staff.
“People are already halfway down the track,” Podesta said, referring to the nine Democrat candidates running for president in 2004.
Depending on how the court rules, it is likely that Congress will be forced to consider a new campaign finance reform bill that conforms with the decision.
Liberal Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Steven Breyer, and Stevens will likely vote in favor of the campaign finance reform law.
Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Scalia are expected to vote against the law on the grounds of free speech violations.
Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a conservative, and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a moderate, will likely cast the deciding votes in what is expected be a 5-4 decision.