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U.S. Supreme Court releases taped arguments in campaign finance case

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U.S. Supreme Court releases taped arguments in campaign finance case

  • Oral arguments in the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law hearing were made public today, marking only the fourth time that the Supreme Court immediately released audiotapes.

Sep. 8, 2003 — Citing exceptional public interest, the U.S. Supreme Court released audiotapes of oral arguments immediately following today’s four-hour McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law hearing.

The expedient release was just the fourth time in history that the U.S. Supreme Court made tapes available following its proceedings. In December 2000, the court immediately made public the tapes of oral arguments in the controversial Bush v. Palm Beach Canvassing Board presidential election hearings and, less than two weeks later, in the Bush v. Gore follow-up case. The court also released tapes in the University of Michigan affirmative action case earlier this year. Transcripts are typically not released for months, and often do not specify which justices asked which questions.

According to open court advocates, the justices’ Sept. 2 decision to release today’s taped proceedings will help the public access information that has a direct impact on their lives. Yet in a July 2003 appearance on ABC’s “This Week, with George Stephanopoulos,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said the court won’t always make tapes available immediately after arguments because “it’s expensive and takes special effort to do.”

The McCain-Feingold hearing may produce the most important Supreme Court ruling affecting politics and money since the 1976 landmark decision in Buckley v. Valeo. In that case, the court ruled that restricting how much candidates can spend is an infringement on their speech, while limiting outside contributions is not.

Over the past week, newspaper editorial writers across the country have commended the court’s decision to release audiotapes following today’s proceedings, but argued that tapes should always be promptly released to the public, and not just those involving extraordinary circumstances.

(Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act Cases) VR

© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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