Speaking up: An ex-justice warns about campaign danger

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Former Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens is retired from the bench but, fortunately, not from public life. On Wednesday, he made an unusual appearance before the Senate Rules Committee to testify about the shredding of campaign finance laws.

Justice Stevens knows this subject better than most. In 2010, he wrote the eloquent dissent to the Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates of political spending to the clear detriment of democracy — something he predicted at the time. But the Supreme Court only compounded the damage in its McCutcheon decision last month.

For the conservative majority on the court, money equals free speech — and it’s a wonder there are any limits left at all. Justice Stevens was there to say this view has to change: “While money is used to finance speech, money is not speech.”

But nothing will change unless Americans insist on it and Justice Stevens points the way. He recently wrote a book titled “Six Amendments — How and Why We Should Change the Constitution.” Pertinent to this discussion, he proposes an amendment on campaign financing which would prohibit the First Amendment to be used as an excuse to deny “reasonable limits” on expenditures.

Although defining “reasonable” would keep future jurists occupied, this may be America’s last hope.

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