Last week, the nation watched as Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in confirmation hearings for his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. Amid the protests and political grandstanding, Judge Kavanaugh spoke about his judicial philosophy and the critical role that the Court plays in our federal government.
“Our independent Judiciary is the crown jewel of our constitutional republic,” Judge Kavanaugh said in his opening statement. “In our independent Judiciary, the Supreme Court is the last line of defense for the separation of powers, and the rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution.”
While the Supreme Court is the last line of defense, state courts are oftentimes the first battlegrounds where the fight for freedom is waged. On Thursday, we saw the unfortunate result of one of those cases in Massachusetts, where the state’s Supreme Judicial Court upheld a scheme that bans employers—but not the labor unions they negotiate with—from making political contributions. In 2015, the Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit on behalf of two small businesses challenging this scheme for unconstitutionally tilting the political playing field.
Massachusetts is one of only six states that prohibits employers—but not unions—from contributing to political parties, committees, or candidates. Kentucky had a similar lopsided ban until 2016, when a federal district court ruled the ban unconstitutional in response to a Goldwater Institute lawsuit. The Massachusetts loophole bans political contributions from employers while allowing unions, including out-of-state unions, to contribute up to $15,000 to a single candidate. Individuals can only donate up to $1,000. Under current law, unions may also contribute via political action committees, while PACs supported by employers are prohibited.
“The union loophole in Massachusetts’ campaign finance law is a clear violation of the constitutional rights of equal protection, free speech, and free association, preventing businesses from having the same say in that political process that unions do,” Goldwater Institute senior fellow Jim Manley said. “We’re disappointed the Court would allow such an outright ban on political speech to stand.”
The Massachusetts decision may not be the last word on the matter, though, and that’s where the U.S. Supreme Court can stand as the last line of defense for our liberties. Goldwater Institute senior attorney Jacob Huebert explains in a new article on the In Defense of Liberty blog.
“The U.S. Supreme Court should clarify the law and explicitly direct lower courts to subject campaign finance laws that play favorites to ‘strict scrutiny’ – the highest level of constitutional scrutiny, which few, if any, campaign contribution limits could survive,” Huebert writes. “The Goldwater Institute intends to give the Court the opportunity to do so by asking it to hear this case.”
Liberty in the News
No, Senator, They’re Not in It for Hot Dogs
During the U.S. Senate’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings last week, Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse criticized conservative and libertarian public-interest litigators like the Goldwater Institute for trying to “direct the court[s] in a particular direction.” But as Goldwater’s vice president for litigation Timothy Sandefur explains in a new piece on the Institute’s In Defense of Liberty blog, Americans owe a debt of thanks to people who have “had the courage to take a stand and be a plaintiff in one of the landmark cases that has vindicated our constitutional freedoms.”
Jon Kyl heads to the U.S. Senate
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey named former U.S. Senator and Goldwater Institute co-founder Jon Kyl to succeed Senator John McCain in the U.S. Senate. “Jon Kyl was one of the founders of the Goldwater Institute 30 years ago, and he has remained a great friend of ours to this day,” Goldwater Institute president Victor Riches said. “For as long as he chooses to serve, Jon Kyl will be a great asset to the country in the United States Senate.”
Aloha, Property Rights
Honolulu, Hawaii, is the latest in a growing number of cities nationwide that are taking steps to discriminate against, overregulate, or completely ban homeowners from choosing to allow people to stay in their homes on a short-term basis. Its new proposal would inflict untold costs on communities and families in the state.