A three-judge panel in Washington struck down major provisions of the new campaign finance law this afternoon in a much-awaited ruling, setting the stage for a final showdown at the U.S. Supreme Court later this year that will determine the shape, style and bank accounts of the nation's major political campaigns.
Nearly five months after the McCain-Feingold law was argued before the panel, most of the soft money prohibitions were declared to be unconstitutional by a 2-1 majority, possibly clearing the way for major political parties to begin raising the large, unregulated sums of money from corporations, trade unions and wealthy individuals that critics said had plagued major election campaigns during the past two decades.
This isn't over yet, but it doesn't look good. It's time to get active on this. Study the arguments, and figure out how to take the most united stand. Personally, I believe we need to sponsor a second Bill of Rights, for the 21st century, that involves a constellation of the freedom of information, to ensure transparency and accountability; the role and ownership of media and corporations in America, and necessary and just conditions of their charter; campaign finance reform, to clean up the rest and constructed to be constitutionally sound; and electoral reform, including lifetime registration, same-day registration, instant runoff voting or some better alternative, and a national election holiday. I'll be posting more on this as time goes on, and I get in more depth and detail below (near the bottom of this post).
Update: One read of the two arguments below would be to ask 1) what constitutional implications are there for the seemingly common-sense proposals in Clean Money, Clean Elections; and 2) what common-sense outcomes would we expect to see if we followed the strict constitutional arguments of unrestricted political speech and spending? In some ways, we get an interesting opposition of means and ends, each appropriating different means by different justifications to achieve seemingly similar ends (though these postulated ends are not so well proven to ensure they would actually turn out that way).