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Publisher's Summary

Citizens United sought an injunction against the Federal Election Commission in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to prevent the application of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) to its film Hillary: The Movie. The Movie expressed opinions about whether Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton would make a good president. In an attempt to regulate "big money" campaign contributions, the BCRA applies a variety of restrictions to "electioneering communications." Section 203 of the BCRA prevents corporations or labor unions from funding such communication from their general treasuries. Sections 201 and 311 require the disclosure of donors to such communication and a disclaimer when the communication is not authorized by the candidate it intends to support. Citizens United argued that: 1) Section 203 violates the First Amendment on its face and when applied to The Movie and its related advertisements, and that 2) Sections 201 and 203 are also unconstitutional as applied to the circumstances. The United States District Court denied the injunction. Section 203 on its face was not unconstitutional because the Supreme Court in McConnell v. FEC had already reached that determination. The District Court also held that The Movie was the functional equivalent of express advocacy, as it attempted to inform voters that Senator Clinton was unfit for office, and thus Section 203 was not unconstitutionally applied. Lastly, it held that Sections 201 and 203 were not unconstitutional as applied to the The Movie or its advertisements. The court reasoned that the McConnell decision recognized that disclosure of donors "might be unconstitutional if it imposed an unconstitutional burden on the freedom to associate in support of a particular cause," but those circumstances did not exist in Citizen United's claim.
Public Domain (P)2014 Oyez, Inc
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5 out of 5 stars
By Timoteo on 03-08-18

Key first amendment case

This item is the oral arguments before the Supreme Court (and at the end, the reading of the opinions from the bench by certain justices) in a key first amendment case involving campaign finance laws and the speech interests of corporations and unions. This decision had a big impact on the law of free speech in the United States and on how corporations, unions, and other entities can attempt to influence elections. In this case, Citizens United v Federal Election Comm'n (2010), the Supreme Court struck down a federal law as applied to speech by a non-profit corporation in the form of a 90 minute movie criticizing Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primaries. The court cited Justice Holmes's concept that government ought not regulate the "marketplace of ideas." The court upheld disclosure requirements for sponsors of ads. The case did not reach the ban on contributions by corporations and unions to candidate campaigns and political parties.

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