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Justice Alito defends court's ruling in Citizens United

| Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, 8:22 p.m.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito says that efforts to limit campaign spending by some corporations would give First Amendment rights to 'only certain privileged voices.' AP

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is defending the court's 2010 decision in the Citizens United case that helped fuel hundreds of millions of dollars of spending by independent groups in the just-concluded campaign season.

Alito told roughly 1,500 people at a Federalist Society dinner last week that the First Amendment protects political speech, whether from an individual or a corporation. His comments to the overwhelmingly conservative and Republican crowd were part of his broader analysis of arguments put forth by the Obama administration in recent years that Alito said would curtail individual freedoms in favor of stronger federal power.

He said opponents of the 5-4 decision have conducted an effective but misleading public relations campaign by stressing that the court extended free speech rights to corporations.

Alito rattled off the names of the nation's leading newspapers and television networks, all owned by corporations and possessing acknowledged rights to print and say what they wish about politics and government.

“The question is whether speech that goes to the very heart of government should be limited to certain preferred corporations; namely, media corporations,” he said. “Surely the idea that the First Amendment protects only certain privileged voices should be disturbing to anybody who believes in free speech.”

The justice in his speech on Thursday dealt with high court cases involving religion, private property, surveillance, immigration and health care.

Taken together, Alito said, the views put forth by the government begin to suggest a vision of society “in which the federal government towers over people.” He noted that in several cases, not a single justice endorsed the Obama administration's arguments.

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