McCain calls out Chief Justice Roberts over campaign finance case
Yesterday marked the first case in front of newly-minted Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and the Court spared no controversy. The case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, gives the Court a stab at overturning two decisions (Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and McConnell v. FEC) which support the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law of 2003.
Three of the Court’s most conservative Justices — Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy — have all made clear that they’d want nothing more than to overturn the case law supporting McCain-Feingold. But, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sam Alito have waited to address the issue — until yesterday. And while not necessarily indicative of how the Court will vote, yesterday’s arguments seemed particularly harsh against the FEC — indicating that the Court will indeed change its rulings on campaign finance law.
How broad the Courts decision will be in altering the election finance laws is anyone’s guess, but Sen. John McCain, who has a clear dog in this fight, wasted no time in pouncing on Roberts’ predicted ruling in a joint statement with Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold:
It was just six years ago that the Supreme Court upheld the electioneering communications provision in McCain-Feingold and nothing has happened in that time to warrant the drastic step of overruling that decision.During his confirmation hearing, Chief Justice Roberts, whom we both voted for, promised to respect precedent. If he casts the deciding vote to overrule Austin and McConnell, it would completely contradict that promise, and could have serious consequences for our democracy.
Those are harsh words coming from a Republican to the Republican-appointed Chief Justice, and indicative perhaps of just how radical the Roberts’ Court is becoming.