Reading the 68-page transcript of this past week’s Supreme Court arguments over whether spending for promotion of “Hillary: The Movie” violated the McCain-Feingold Act was like watching 11 people debate whether the ship they are on should sink bow-first or stern-first. They kept arguing about whether the movie was covered by the scope of the law and only occasionally raised the question of whether the law itself violated the Constitution, specifically the First Amendment prohibition against government abridgement of free speech.
At the heart of the case is a 90-minute, limited-release movie created by Citizens United, which was largely critical of Hillary Clinton during her 2008 Democratic presidential primary bid. The Federal Election Commission ruled that, under McCain-Feingold, corporate money could not be spent to promote the movie on a video-on-demand cable channel.
You see, McCain-Feingold was passed by Congress — and fundamentally twice upheld by the Supreme Court, though it chipped away at some aspects — under the rotten rubric that the people are just too gosh darned gullible to be exposed to the corrupting influence of campaign messages financed by wealthy corporations and unions. (Wealthy political action committees and individuals are another matter.)