The Contradictory Messages of Rehnquist-Roberts Era Speech Law: Liberty and Justice for Some
26 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2010 Last revised: 11 Feb 2013
Date Written: February 7, 2013
The Supreme Court in the Rehnquist-Roberts era has been characterized as pro-free speech, based in part on the Court’s protection of money as a form of speech in the campaign finance context. Parsing the tangle of free speech decisions for themes and patterns, this essay highlights inconsistencies in the Court’s decisions on basic free speech issues, such as the strict-scrutiny invalidation of limits on the quantity of speech only in the area of campaign finances. Looking beyond the familiar First Amendment rhetoric of self-expression, empowerment of the people, and triumphal American democracy, the essay reveals stark differences between the Court’s treatment of modes of speech available to people of ordinary means, and modes available to corporations and the wealthy. The Court’s curtailment of rights related to the former, and expansion of rights related to the latter, skews, corrupts, and undermines the democratic process.
Keywords: speech, campaign finance, quantity of speech, wealth, money
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