Another term for censorship

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dan_kennedy_140x14011By Dan Kennedy

Advocates of campaign-finance reform may be well-meaning. In practice, though, reform measures often add up to censorship by another name.

Take, for example, a film called “Hillary: The Movie.” Produced by Citizens United, a conservative group that staunchly opposed Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, the movie was banned from television last year by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on the grounds that it ran afoul of a law that prohibits “electioneering communication” 30 days before a presidential primary or 60 days before a general election.

As Adam Liptak reports in the New York Times, the FEC’s ruling was upheld in the federal courts. The matter is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, which essentially upheld the 2002 law mandating such bans — more commonly known as the McCain-Feingold Act — in its McConnell v. FEC decision of 2003.

Let’s hope the Supreme Court takes full advantage of its opportunity for a do-over. As the legal analyst Stuart Taylor wrote in National Journal in 2001, when the ban was under consideration: “A greater affront to the First Amendment’s core purpose of protecting uninhibited, robust and wide-open criticism of government and government officials could scarcely be imagined.”

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