The First Amendment: United
Georgia State University Law Review, Vol. 27, pp. 935-988, 2011
55 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2011
Date Written: 2011
This article defends the Supreme Court’s famous and controversial decision in the Citizens United case. In that case, the Court reaffirmed that the protections of the First Amendment are available to entities like corporations, labor union and non-profit groups and recognized that this protection extended to speech relating to the election or defeat of political candidates. In so holding, the Court invalidated provisions of key federal campaign finance statute which had made it a crime for those entities to engage in various kinds of election-related speech, and overruled certain prior rulings which had sustained such restrictions. The immediate consequence was that a non-profit conservative advocacy group, organized as a corporation, was free to produce and disseminate a movie sharply critical of then-Senator Hillary Clinton’s in connection with her 2008 campaign for the Presidency. The broader consequence, as the article argues, is to return the Court’s campaign finance doctrines back to the safe harbor of classic First Amendment principles. The article surveys the several arguments made to justify restricting the political speech of corporations, unions and other entities, and demonstrates how each of them is flawed when matched against these classic First Amendment principles. The article concludes that the Court’s handiwork will clear away many of the encrusted and unjustifiable features of a speech-chilling and association-dampening campaign finance regime.
Keywords: First Amendment, Campaign finance, Elections
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