A Million Corporations with a Million Campaign Ads: Citizens United, the People's Rights Amendment, and the Speech of Non-Persons

58 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2013

See all articles by Stuart McPhail

Stuart McPhail

Columbia University - Law School

Date Written: June 3, 2013

Abstract

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission struck down a federal law that prohibited corporations and unions from buying ads advocating for or opposing a federal candidate. The decision reversed decades of precedent upholding such restraints and evoked wide-spread condemnation. Much of the criticism has focused on the Court’s ostensible holding that corporations are people, and thus that their speech is entitled to protection under the First Amendment. This understanding of the Court’s holding in Citizens United has led to a proposed solution: eliminating corporate personhood. That solution, however, would not have its advocates’ hoped for effect of reversing Citizens United or preventing corporations and other artificial entities from spending unlimited sums to engage in electioneering. That is because advocates of stripping corporate personhood forget that speech involves two parties -- a speaker and a listener. Eliminating corporate personhood will not provide legislatures the power to regulate corporate speech -- any interested listener could simply sue to hear the silenced speech.

Keywords: Citizens United, First Amendment, Listener Rights, Free Speech, Campaign Finance

Suggested Citation

McPhail, Stuart, A Million Corporations with a Million Campaign Ads: Citizens United, the People's Rights Amendment, and the Speech of Non-Persons (June 3, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2273795 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2273795

Stuart McPhail (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

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