Our democracy didn't end yesterday when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a ban on campaign spending by corporations and unions. Instead, the court recognized that our democracy is strongest when it allows free and open political discussion, regardless of who pays for it, and when or where it occurs.

Critics fear the ruling will unleash spending by deep-pocketed special interests and bring about a wave of influence-buying, if not corruption. Unfortunately, that toxin was in our political system long before this ruling, and it's still a risk. What the court did was eliminate the middleman in that process - those political action committees that quietly channeled donations to campaigns. Now, unlimited direct spending in support of or against a candidate is permissible, as long as it's clear who is responsible for the advertising.

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This case began when the conservative organization Citizens United tried to get its hatchet job of a documentary about then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton televised before a 2008 primary. A lower court said such "electioneering communications" on TV were prohibited by law. Suppose, however, that the movie had been uploaded to YouTube and gone viral. It would have reached more voters, cost next to nothing and been legal.

Was the next logical step extending the speech restrictions to blogs, Web sites and social networks created with corporate funds? We should trust that the democratization of our communications technology has the great power to equalize speech for all of us. hN