Citizens United v. FEC
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310, was a landmark decision of the United States concerning campaign finance. The Court held that the free speech clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for political communications by corporations. The ruling had a major impact on campaign finance, allowing unlimited election spending by corporations and labor unions and fueling the rise of Super PACs.
About Citizens United v. FEC in brief
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310, was a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of the United States concerning campaign finance. The Court held that the free speech clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for political communications by corporations. The ruling had a major impact on campaign finance, allowing unlimited election spending by corporations and labor unions and fueling the rise of Super PACs. Studies show that the Citizens United ruling boosted the electoral success of Republican candidates. The case did not involve the federal ban on direct contributions from corporations or unions to candidate campaigns or political parties, which remain illegal in races for federal office. The decision remains highly controversial, generating much public discussion and receiving strong support and opposition from various groups. The majority decision overruled Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and partially overruled McConnell v. Federal Election commission. The Court, however, upheld requirements for public disclosure by sponsors of advertisements. The case was argued in 2009 and decided in 2010, with the majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy and the dissenting opinion by Justice John Paul Stevens. The ruling effectively freed labor unions, corporations to spend money on electioneering communications and to directly advocate for the election or defeat of candidates. In the case, the non-profit organization Citizens United wanted to air a film critical of Hillary Clinton and to advertise the film during television broadcasts, which was a violation of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, commonly known as the McCain–Feingold Act or “BCRA’s” Section 203 of BCRA defined an “electioneering communication” as a broadcast, cable, or satellite communication that mentioned a candidate within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of an primary.
The United States District Court for the District of Columbia held that BCRA applied and prohibited Citizens United from advertising the film Hillary: The Movie in broadcasts or paying to have it shown on television within 30 day of the 2008 Democratic primaries. The Supreme Court reversed this decision, striking down those provisions of the BCRA that prohibited corporations and unions from making independent expenditures. Senator Mitch McConnell commended the decision, arguing that it represented “an important step in the direction of restoring the first Amendment rights” President Barack Obama stated that the decision “gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington’”. The decision was appealed to the FEC, which dismissed the complaint after finding that no evidence that broadcast advertisements featuring a proscribed candidate had actually been made within the time limits. The FEC later dismissed a second complaint which argued that the movie was itself illegal under the Taft-Hartley Act of 1974: The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1947 and 1974: Hartley and Hartley v. Hartley. The complaint found that the film was critical of the Bush administration’s response to terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and thus could not be marketed by a variety of corporate entities.