McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm'n, 514 U.S. 334 (1995)

Commentary by Jon Roland

The holding in this case continues undoing the damage done by the holding in Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976), begun by the holding in Brown v. Socialist Workers', 459 U.S. 87 (1982). Buckley struck down the limits on campaign spending, but upheld the limits on contributions and requirements for disclosure of contributors and expenditures, and therefore forbade anonymous contributors, for electoral campaign organizations. It left open a defense against disclosure requirements for organizations that could provide evidence of official or private repression of disclosed supporters, which was exploited in Brown to yield a holding that such organizations were exempt from campaign disclosure requirements.

The holding in McIntyre was that a person or organization has a First Amendment right to anonymously publish in support of or opposition to legislation or a candidate. Carried to its logical conclusion, this would reverse all the components of federal campaign legislation sustained by Buckley, including all the disclosure requirements and contribution limits.

What is perhaps most interesting about this decision is how the Supreme Court justices dance around the logical implications and avoid following the chain of logic. The only two justices that confront this logic are Justice Thomas, who sets forth the logic without actually stating the obvious conclusion, and Justice Scalia, who rejects the conclusion, and therefore rejects compliance with original understanding of the Constitution.

It makes one wonder what it would take to get the justices to simply pursue every case to its logical conclusion, and render sweeping holdings that would end or prevent all the cases, and all the injustice they represent, that result from their failure to do so.

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