New Op-ed from ARI’s Steve Simpson: “The Campaign Finance Monster that Refuses To Die”

In his latest op-ed, published on, ARI’s director of legal studies Steve Simpson argues that campaign finance laws threaten the individual’s right to free speech, because they rest on a severely mistaken view of the meaning of free speech:

If we really want to kill off the campaign finance monster, we need to drive a stake through the wrong-headed view of free speech at its heart. This view holds freedom of speech not as an inalienable individual right — a right to say what you wish regardless of what others think — but as a kind of privilege that we exercise at the sufferance of “the public,” “society,” or “the people.”

This is the prevailing view among many intellectuals and politicians today. Justice Breyer embraced it in his dissent in the McCutcheon case, joined by his three colleagues on the left. According to Breyer, the First Amendment doesn’t just protect individuals, it also protects the “public’s interest” in having its “collective speech” matter. “Where enough money calls the tune,” according to Justice Breyer, “the general public will not be heard.” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, echoed this view in his statement announcing last week’s hearing: “The Court has repeatedly used the First Amendment — not to protect the voices of all Americans, but as an instrument to amplify the voices of billionaires and corporations.”

This is a fashionable view these days — rich and powerful “special interests” are drowning out the voice of “the public,” so we need campaign finance laws to prevent them from speaking too loudly.

By regulating “political spending,” campaign finance laws are, in effect, attempting to legally silence unpopular individuals. As such, campaign finance laws constitute a dangerous step toward censorship in America.

Read the whole thing here.

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