People's stance on free speech often depends on whose ox is gored. In condemning the decision, the offended progressives engaged in amazing mental contortions. It "was wrong because nothing in the First Amendment dictates that corporations must be treated identically to people," said the editorial in The Washington Post. Don't progressives realize that corporations (and unions, which also had their speech rights protected) are associations of individuals -- individuals who have rights? Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was mocked when he said, "Corporations are people." But Romney was right.
One need not be a fan of corporations to see that restricting anyone's speech is dangerous. One government lawyer said that even corporate-funded books favoring candidates could be illegal. That should scare progressives -- the Federal Election Commission put an anti-Bush book written by George Soros under scrutiny. Laws limiting speech have been used more often against radicals than against the corporate establishment.
But the progressives' campaign goes on. The Supreme Court right now is revisiting this issue because Montana's Supreme Court ruled that Montana can ban corporate spending on state politics. Sens. McCain and Sheldon Whitehouse filed a friend-of-the-court brief claiming that allowing corporate speech would bring a "strong potential for corruption and perception thereof."
Right, as though politicians don't routinely constitute a "potential for corruption" all by themselves.
It is shameful that leftists let their hatred of corporations lead them to throw free speech under the bus. There is a smarter way to get corporate money out of politics: Shrink the state. If government has fewer favors to sell, citizens will spend less money trying to win them.