By Bert Gall
On June 24, IJ launched its first major foray into the blogosphere with our Congress Shall Make No Law blog, which will examine First Amendment issues. Located at MakeNoLaw.org, the blog serves as a complement to the Institute for Justice’s advocacy to defend freedom of speech against government encroachments—and particularly against limits on political speech in the guise of campaign finance restrictions.
IJ’s First Amendment team saw the need to create the blog in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United decision, in which the Court struck down a law that severely restricted the ability of corporations and unions to spend money on speech criticizing candidates during an election.
The decision was a ringing endorsement of First Amendment principles and their important place in our society—yet it was swiftly and harshly denounced by many politicians, media outlets and pundits. President Obama accused the Court of reversing “a century of law” and “open[ing] the floodgates for special interests . . . to spend without limit in our elections.” The New York Times—itself a corporation—complained that the decision improperly extended First Amendment rights to corporations. MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann hyperbolically called Citizens United the worst decision since Dred Scott.
The negative reaction to Citizens United among these and other prominent opinion leaders reveals that they view free speech as a privilege to be tolerated at the pleasure of politicians, not an absolute right that must be respected. This domineering big-government view—which is at the heart of campaign finance restrictions—demands a swift, well-reasoned and entertaining response (particularly in the burgeoning blogosphere) from those who believe that when the Framers said, “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech,” they meant just that.
And that’s where IJ’s new blog comes into play. With Congress Shall Make No Law, IJ now has a social media platform from which it will take the lead in providing the First Amendment the principled defense it deserves—one that begins with the recognition that free speech is a right. This right doesn’t go away if the government doesn’t like the individuals or groups, including corporations, who are doing the talking.
Through provocative and informative commentary on current events, Congress Shall Make No Law will demonstrate that the right to free speech must always prevail over campaign finance laws and other restrictions on free speech against which IJ litigates.
Please visit MakeNoLaw.org and share it with others you think need to hear this message of freedom.
Bert Gall is an IJ senior attorney.