I was very pleased when I heard about the recent Supreme Court ruling on the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill. Specifically, the Court ruled that corporations have a first amendment right to spend money to support or oppose political candidates. You can check out a New York Times article on it here.
The issue is entirely about freedom of expression and whether it extends to corporations. The McCain-Feingold bill has an exemption for news, commentaries and editorials, so it protects the business of corporations such as news outlets and blogs. The problem with the bill is that a corporation is really just a collection of people assembled into a legal entity - the corporation. So the bill would limit freedom of speech for people if they are members of a corporation. That's a severe restriction of freedom of speech.
We citizens naturally react to the idea of corporations advertising for or against political candidates and issues. If corporations can influence elections and legislation, doesn't that undermine the democratic process? Perhaps, but freedom of expression is the most important right protected by our constitution. Campaign finance reform should reform campaign finance for politicians, not limit freedom for individuals. We need disclosure of funding sources from our politicians. The whole idea is for us, the electorate, to know the source of funding for our candidates so we know what we are voting for.
I think the Court got it right. It surprises and concerns me that the decision was 5-4.