Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens slams John Roberts’ views on campaign finance

The Ford-appointed judge thwacks Chief Justice Roberts for conflating money with speech

Published April 21, 2014 7:37PM (EDT)

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens   (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

When you take into consideration the fact that one of his high-profile last acts as a Supreme Court justice was to read the entirety of his blistering Citizens United dissent to the press, it's not a shock that former Justice John Paul Stevens is in the news for attacking the chief architect of the Citizens United ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts.

Still, it's not every day that you see a former member of the high court publicly rebuke a one-time colleague.

But in a new piece for the New York Times, that's exactly what Stevens does. Speaking of McCutcheon v. FEC, the court's other, more recent controversial campaign finance decision, Stevens argued that it was one more example of how the Roberts-led court has lost its way on the issue. "The voter is less important than the man who provides money to the candidate," Stevens said, attempting to summarize Roberts' approach to campaign finance law.

“It’s really wrong," he added.

While Stevens disagreed with Roberts' approach, however, he was willing to grant that it's coherent — if wrong. Speaking of the McCutcheon ruling, Stevens said, "The opinion has the merit of being faithful to the notion that money is speech and that out-of-district money has the same First Amendment protection as in-district money. I think that’s an incorrect view of the law myself, but I do think there’s a consistency between that opinion and what went before.”

Stevens has a new book out, "Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution," and one of his recommended changes to the Constitution is a direct response to Citizens United. Stevens' proposed new amendment, which would be a tweak to or override of the First Amendment (depending on your political POV), would allow Congress to place "reasonable limits on the amount of money that candidates for public office, or their supporters, may spend in election campaigns.”

By Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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