Chief Justice John Roberts sides with liberals to uphold judicial campaign finance restriction | Slate.com
Slate.com correspondent Mark Joseph Stern suspects Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts sided with the moderate wing of the U.S. Supreme Court April 29 to affirm a Florida law barring judge candidates from personally soliciting campaign funds to protect the reputation of the judiciary.
Roberts unexpectedly distinguished judicial candidates from legislative candidates with respect to Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, an opinion equating dollars with speech. As the New York Times reported in January 2010, the court narrowly ruled the First Amendment bars the state from banning corporate contributions to political candidates. Roberts is apparently not concerned about the reputations of legislators, according to Stern.
Campaign finance reform is Chief Justice John Roberts’ bête noire. From the moment he joined the court, Roberts engineered a judicial revolution that overturned decades of precedent upholding reasonable restrictions on donations, solicitations, and expenditures. After Justice Samuel Alito replaced Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Roberts had the votes to blast away one campaign restriction after another. And that he did, eventually masterminding the notorious Citizens United and calamitous McCutcheon v. FEC. After those catastrophes, it seemed Roberts would devote much of his tenure to obliterating every restriction on campaign finance under the theory that they violate millionaires’ constitutional freedom of speech.
On Wednesday, Roberts halted his crusade against campaign finance reform in a stunning reversal that almost nobody—myself included—saw coming. In Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar, Roberts joined the liberals to uphold a Florida measure that barred elected judges from personally soliciting campaign funds. (This is only the second time Roberts has sided with the four liberals against four dissenting conservatives; the first time was in the 2012 Obamacare case.) In his opinion, Roberts explains:
Judges are not politicians, even when they come to the bench by way of the ballot. And a State’s decision to elect its judiciary does not compel it to treat judicial candidates like campaigners for political office. A State may assure its people that judges will apply the law without fear or favor—and without having personally asked anyone for money.
Roberts’ logic here is simple and commonsensical.