Jones Day partner Michael Carvin, a conservative constitutional lawyer, blasted opponents of the controversial Citizens United ruling at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday.
“I know this has provoked a lot of rhetorical excess and severe criticism, which I must say I find quite puzzling because all Citizens United did was reaffirm what I think is the most basic First Amendment principle that Congress can’t pass laws banning political speech, particularly about members of Congress,” Carvin said at the hearing.
The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission held that limits on outside campaign spending by corporations and unions violated the First Amendment, because political donations were a form of political speech. The ruling paved the way for Super PACs, which can receive unlimited sums of money to influence elections as long as they do not coordinate with a candidate’s campaign.
“Surely no one thinks you could pass a law prohibiting MSNBC from endorsing Barack Obama, even though it used to be owned by General Electric and it’s still a corporation.” Carvin said, adding that opponents of the ruling needed to explain why corporations had become “the red-headed stepchild of the Constitution that is unable to speak.”
“You don’t enhance free speech by suppressing speech by certain people because you want to limit certain people’s voices because the government has taken the paternalistic notion that the polity is just too stupid or uninformed, they’re going to get confused if you give them too much information,” Carvin mockingly said.
As far as corporations being able to drown out smaller and poorer voices, Carvin said the idea was “completely unsubstantiated rhetorical nonsense.”
At the conclusion of his testimony, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-TV) quipped that the committee should give Carvin “the award for saying the highest level of sarcasm we’ve heard before this committee in a long time.”
Watch video, courtesy of CSPAN, below: