With an important Supreme Court campaign finance decision looming, sponsors of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 rejoined on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon to warn the judicial branch not to strip away corporate restrictions on political activity.
“I certainly hope the court steps back from the brink,— said Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.). “Our elections would become like NASCAR races — underwritten by companies.—
He continued: “Only in this case, the corporate underwriters wouldn’t just be seeking publicity, they would be seeking laws and policies that the candidates have the power to provide.—
Feingold’s speech comes as the Supreme Court continues to deliberate a case involving a nonprofit organization, Citizens United. Ahead of the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, the group asked a lower court for permission to promote and distribute a feature-length production, “Hillary: The Movie.— The group had hoped to show the movie on cable television through video-on-demand in the days and weeks before last year’s nominating contests.
The case was re-argued on Sept. 9 during Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s debut on the Supreme Court. A decision in the case is expected before the end of the year.
During his nearly-hour-long speech, fellow BCRA sponsor Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) exhaustively traced the nation’s history of campaign finance regulations. In his oratory, McCain also singled out comments made last month by Justice Antonin Scalia — statements that questioned Members’ motives in writing campaign finance laws.
“Congress has a self-interest,— Scalia said. “I mean, we — we are suspicious of Congressional action in the First Amendment area precisely because we — at least I am — I doubt that one can expect a body of incumbents to draw election restrictions that do not favor incumbents.—
“Now is that excessively cynical of me?— Scalia asked. “I don’t think so.—
Although a month late, McCain took an opportunity Wednesday to answer the conservative justice’s question — and to criticize his “unfortunate lack of understanding and the history of campaign finance reform.—
“I think it’s cynical,— McCain said. “I take great exception to Justice Scalia’s statement, as should any Member of both houses of Congress,— McCain continued. “It is an affront to the thousands of the good, decent honorable men and women who have served this nation in these halls for well over 200 years.—