It’s been one year since supporters say a “victory for free speech” was won. On January 21, 2010 the Supreme Court released its decision in Citizens United v. FEC, a case that was responsible for eliminating part of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. The decision is hailed by conservatives and denounced by liberals and served as a lightning rod issue for both the 2008 and 2010 elections.
Essentially the decision stated that corporate funding of political ads cannot be limited under the First Amendment. Liberals wanted corporate sponsored political advertisements to be banned in the 60 days before an election and the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill made that ban into law. Supporters, though, said that banning ads, no matter who was sponsoring them, was a violation of free political speech and that it was unconstitutional to ban them regardless of the time period.
The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) initially brought the suit against Citizens United in 2008. The FEC claimed that CU’s advertising just prior to the Democratic Primaries for the anti-Clinton film Hillary: The Movie violated McCain-Feingold. A lower court upheld McCain-Feingold so Citizens United took its case to the SCOTUS. The decision by the Supremes struck down the provision of McCain-Feingold that prohibited ads in the 60 days prior to an election.
Liberals, of course, called this a travesty of justice claiming that the deep pockets of corporations and well-financed advocacy groups could unduly affect the course of elections and that corporate money should be somehow eliminated from the process. The cry of “too much money in politics” animates many on the left, to be sure. Well, at least it animates them when that money is coming from the right. When unions and leftist advocacy groups are pluming similarly deep pockets, the left is not nearly so concerned.
The main contention from supporters of Citizens United is that limiting advocacy groups or corporations from spending money on political causes or advertisements is a violation of a principle American right, the right of free political speech. After all, they say, the money spent is the speech and to ban money being spent is banning that free political speech. Further, supporters feel that corporations and advocacy groups like Citizens United should not be treated any differently than an individual and should not have their right to spend money on political causes curtailed in any way.
In my opinion the case was decided correctly if only because McCain-Feingold did not stop unions from spending millions to support Democrats while it did stop advocacy groups and corporations from having the same right to push their political issues. Why McCain-Feingold didn’t treat the deep pockets of unions the same as it attempted to treat groups that might tend to push a conservative agenda is evidence of the ineffectiveness of John McCain as well as the hypocrisy of the left.
Citizens United is a conservative group, indeed and this is why the Democrats targeted it in 2008. Citizens United is an advocacy group dedicated to restoring “citizen’s control” of the U.S. government through producing TV commercials for issues and for or against certain candidates. CU sponsors various educational programs to help train Americans on how to become active in government. The group lobbies politicians to write legislation observing conservative principles through its grassroots lobbying arm The American Sovereignty Project.
This is one anniversary that leftists will cry over, I am sure. But all in all, I agree with the SCOTUS decision. It was a victory for a traditional American right. Free political speech is sacrosanct, no matter who is doing the speaking.
On the occasion of the anniversary, CU has issued a few statements:
>b>David N. Bossie , President of Citizens United:
“Citizens United v. FEC allowed individuals to be able to participate in the political process through corporations for the first time in decades. Our victory allows non-profit corporations like Citizens United and others to come together with their donors and supporters to educate the American people. America is facing a number of major issues that will shape the course of our country in the years to come. Whether it is the exploding national debt or the fight over health care, the American people must be free to participate in the political process, and have the freedom to debate the most pressing issues of our time without government restrictions. Citizens United v. FEC set down a marker on First Amendment rights that will preserve all Americans’ right to free speech.”
Theodore B. Olson, CU’s Attorney before the SCOTUS:
“I think it may be the most important case in history because what that decision said is that individuals, under the First Amendment, cannot be inhibited, cannot be restrained, cannot be threatened, cannot be censored by the government when they wish to speak about elections and the political process. What could be more important than that? This is a robust expression of our fundamental liberties. I think it is the most important decision ever to be rendered by the Supreme Court in connection with the freedom of citizens to participate in the political process.”
Citizens United was founded in 1988, and is one of the leading conservative advocacy groups in the country with over 500,000 members and supporters. Through its films, op-eds, policy papers, newsletters, and grassroots organizing, Citizens United seeks to reassert the traditional American values of limited government, freedom of enterprise, strong families, and national sovereignty and security.