Hillary Clinton says that as president, she would have a litmus test for Supreme Court nominees: they must promise to vote to overturn the Citizens United case.
It is easy to understand why Hillary isn’t fond of Citizens United. The case involved a film called Hillary: The Movie that was critical of her. In Citizens United, the Supreme Court held that it was unconstitutional to criminalize showings of Hillary within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election, simply because the movie (like all movies) was produced by a corporation. This is how the court’s majority described what was at stake in the case:
The law before us is an outright ban, backed by criminal sanctions. Section 441b makes it a felony for all corporations—including nonprofit advocacy corporations—either to expressly advocate the election or defeat of candidates or to broadcast electioneering communications within 30 days of a primary election and 60 days of a general election. Thus, the following acts would all be felonies under §441b: The Sierra Club runs an ad, within the crucial phase of 60 days before the general election, that exhorts the public to disapprove of a Congressman who favors logging in national forests; the National Rifle Association publishes a book urging the public to vote for the challenger because the incumbent U. S. Senator supports a handgun ban; and the American Civil Liberties Union creates a Web site telling the public to vote for a Presidential candidate in light of that candidate’s defense of free speech. These prohibitions are classic examples of censorship.
If Hillary gets her way and Citizens United is overturned, the path will be cleared for Congress to enact legislation that makes it a crime to criticize President Clinton in a book or movie. So far, the political class has only tried to ban books and movies that endorse or criticize candidates 60 days out from an election, but there is nothing magic about that number. Next time, they could punish anyone who publishes a book or produces a movie critical of Hillary 180 days, or 360 days before the next election. Is there any reason why Hillary’s Supreme Court justices, committed to reversing Citizens United, would balk at such legislation? None that I can see. We are living, after all, in the era of the permanent campaign.
Has there ever been a time when free speech is popular? Perhaps not; certainly not today. Not on the left. But those who might consider supporting Hillary Clinton for president should think carefully about the powers she wants the federal government to wield.
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