Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission 5-4 Majority Opinion of the Court: “The law before us is an outright ban, backed by criminalsanctions. Section 441b makes it a felony for all corpora-tions—including nonprofit advocacy corporations—eitherto expressly advocate the election or defeat of candidates or to broadcast electioneering communications within 30days of a primary election and 60 days of a general elec-tion. Thus, the following acts would all be felonies under §441b: The Sierra Club runs an ad, within the crucialphase of 60 days before the general election, that exhorts the public to disapprove of a Congressman who favorslogging in national forests; the National Rifle Associationpublishes a book urging the public to vote for the chal-lenger because the incumbent U. S. Senator supports a handgun ban; and the American Civil Liberties Unioncreates a Web site telling the public to vote for a Presiden- tial candidate in light of that candidate’s defense of free speech. These prohibitions are classic examples of censorship.”
Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission: “Make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech,” §441b’s prohibition on corporate independent expenditures is an outright ban on speech, backed by criminal sanctions. It is a ban notwithstanding the fact that a PAC created by a corporation can still speak, for a PAC is a separate association from the corporation.”
“Citizens United v. FEC: A Landmark Decision in Favor of Free Speech.” Heritage Foundation, The Foundry Blog. January 21st, 2010: “The “First Principles” on which this country were founded are the principles that the Heritage Foundation works to advance everyday. In today’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision of Citizens United v. FEC, a conservative majority on the Supreme Court upheld some of the most important principles: the right to engage in free speech, particularly political speech, and the right to freely associate.
It is no surprise that these rights are in the very first amendment in the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution. The Founders, who had fought a long, hard war with the English crown to establish our independence, knew that the ability to associate freely (think the Sons of Liberty) and to engage in political speech without being censored by the government were fundamental rights crucial to our republic. That is why the Supreme Court’s decision throwing out a federal ban on independent political expenditures by corporations (including non-profits) is a return to, as the Court said, “ancient First Amendment principles.”
The Supreme Court overturned its prior decision in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and part of McConnell v. FEC. It rejected the very idea that the government can decide who gets to speak and that the government can actually ban some from speaking at all, particularly those doing their speaking through associations of members who share their beliefs.
Almost every one of the many associations we have in this country (no matter which side of the political aisle they are on), from the NAACP to the Sierra Club to the National Rifle Association, are also corporations. Yet those corporate associations were prohibited under penalty of criminal and civil sanctions from expressing the views of their members in the political arena over which particular candidates should be elected to uphold the positions on important issues of public policy that their members believe in unless they complied with certain very restrictive, complex provisions.
For-profit corporations and labor unions were also prohibited from engaging in independent political activity even though their businesses and the jobs of their employees and members can be greatly affected, damaged, or even lost because of the actions taken by elected members of Congress. There is no rational reason why they should not be able to engage in independent political activity.
The Court, led by Justice Kennedy, held that the First Amendment stands against attempts to distinguish among different speakers, which may be a means to control content. In so doing, the Court declared that the government cannot impose restrictions on certain disfavored speakers such as corporations.”
Justin Anthony Kennedy: “When government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought. This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves.”
Bill Maurer. “Corporate free speech is not un-American.” Seattle Times. February 1, 2010: “This is America. We do not ban books. We do not make it a crime to speak because the speech may be too influential. With this decision, Americans will get more information, hear more debate, and learn more about their elections. With all due respect to Sen. Schumer, what could be more American than that?”