Supremes Let Up on Political Ad Limits

in 5-4 reversal, court rules 'issue ads' don't count as endorsements
By Greg Atwan,  Newser User
Posted Jun 25, 2007 2:30 PM CDT
WASHINGTON, D.C.-- Supreme Court Justice David Souter, one of nine justices of the Supreme Court who posed for news photographers in a rare session Friday, December 5, 2003.   (KRT Photos)
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(Newser) – Conservatives on the Supreme Court weakened one of the major strictures of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Law today, relaxing the definition of prohibited ads in the run-up to federal elections. An increasingly familiar 5-4 majority declared that "issue ads," which stump for political platforms without explicitly endorsing a candidate, are protected speech.

The decision reverses a precedent as young as 2003, when a different lineup of justices sanctioned a ban on ads even mentioning a candidate's name. Writing for the majority, chief John Roberts bemoaned the diaphanous distinction between opining and endorsing, writing that "the First Amendment requires us to err on the side of protecting political speech rather than suppressing it.”