Monday, June 27, 2011

Supremes: speech is free only if someone is making money on it

In three decisions over the last week, the Supreme Court consistently links free speech protection to money making enterprises. In the first decision, Sorrell vs IMS health, the court held that restricting sales of pharmaceutical records to data mining companies for the purpose of marketing to doctors restricts free speech of the data mining marketers. In the second, the combined cases of Arizona Free Enterprise Fund v. Bennett and McComish v. Bennett, the court ruled against part of an Arizona law providing for public matching funds for candidates who face well financed opponents or interest groups, on the grounds that providing public funds selectively to candidates outspent by privately funded opponents restricts the free speech of the opponents. Finally, the Court decided today that a California law prohibiting sales of violent video games to minors... yes, you guessed right, unconstitutionally restricts free speech. Yet, in prior decisions, this court has ruled against free speech rights of minors and school children, holding in Morse v Frederick (popularly known as the 'Bong hits for Jesus' case) that these rights are limited if school officials thought the speech promoted drug use.

I look forward to constitutional scholars to explain these recent cases but to me, right now, the court seems to have moved from asserting that money is speech (in earlier campaign finance cases) to now equating speech with money---something only counts as speech if someone is paying for it.

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