Citizens United has not ended the two-party system, but it will solidify the political requirement that ambitious young people drawn to the more socially liberal Democratic Party be credentialed by corporate donors.
Better said, Citizens United invalidated the federal ban on corporations' ability to advocate expressly for or against political candidates, but it did not portend the complete collapse of other campaign finance regulation. For example, beyond the perceived audacity of the opinion, Citizens United gives no reason to question regulation of direct contributions to candidates. Limits on political expenditures are presumptively invalid because they have a direct impact on the expression of the spender's ability to produce and distribute its own speech, and, in the Court's eye, at best have a tangential relationship to preventing perceived corruption of officeholders.
In addition to holding that Citizens United’s organizational mission had no bearing on the outcome of its case, the Court also deemed the fact that BCRA allowed corporations to fund political speech through political action committees (PAC) insufficient to save BCRA. The Court reasoned that creating a PAC and then complying with the various funding and reporting requirements to which PACs are subject were significant hurdles that impermissibly burdened speech. Additionally, the Court easily dismissed the constitutional relevance of one seemingly important benefit of the PAC requirement: that it allowed shareholders to avoid having their money spent on electioneering with which they disagreed. Instead, the Court left dissenting shareholders two options: they could sell their shares; or they could attempt to harness the power of corporate democracy to stop the undesired electioneering.
The case arose in 2007, when Citizens United, a grass-roots membership organization, sought to broadcast a film critical of Hillary Clinton, then a candidate for president. The Federal Election Commission deemed the film too critical to be shown in the weeks before an election; if Citizens United had broadcast it, its officers would have been subject to prosecution and potential imprisonment for up to five years. The Supreme Court struck down this prohibition of corporate and labor union election-time speech about candidates as a violation of the First Amendment. To the court's majority, it was "stranger than fiction for our Government to make . . . political speech a crime."
The decision [Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission] explicitly overruled longstanding Court precedent and struck down as unconstitutional federal prohibitions on the use of corporate treasury funds for campaign finance expenditures in connection with federal elections. In short, federal law that blocked corporations from spending treasury funds on federal campaign speech was struck down, and by extension, similar state laws modeled after federal laws also were struck down as they applied to state and local elections.
Citizens United is an organization that uses populist rhetoric to promote a corporatist agenda. It contorts words like “citizens” and “united” and “freedom” in service of Big Business. One of its top goals is “complete U.S. withdrawal from the United Nations.”
Citizens United Foundation was established in 1992 as a non-partisan, non-profit research and education foundation, under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. CUF is dedicated to informing the American people about public policy issues which relate to traditional American values, including: the Constitution as the supreme limit on federal power, a strong national defense as the primary role of the federal government; free enterprise as the economic system that has enabled the American people to attain and maintain an historically high standard of living; belief in God and Judeo/Christian values as the fundamental attribute of our way of life; and the recognition of the family as the basic social unit of our society.
David N. Bossie has served as president of Citizens United and Citizens United Foundation since 2001.
Bossie is the former Chief Investigator for the United States House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform and Oversight.
Citizens United is an organization dedicated to restoring our government to citizens' control. Through a combination of education, advocacy, and grass roots organization, Citizens United seeks to reassert the traditional American values of limited government, freedom of enterprise, strong families, and national sovereignty and security. Citizens United's goal is to restore the founding fathers' vision of a free nation, guided by the honesty, common sense, and good will of its citizens.
As the presidential campaign ramps up, it's easy to forget what the actual Citizens United organization is: a mini-film studio with a conservative bent.