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  • Citizens United v. FEC: A Landmark Decision in Favor of Free Speech

    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.

    The Court also found that free speech rights under the First Amendment do not depend on a speaker’s financial ability to engage in public discussion – the fact that some speakers may have more wealth than others does not diminish their First Amendment rights.

    Independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption, the basis for upholding other campaign finance restrictions. Speech is an essential mechanism of democracy and the means to hold officials accountable to the people. As such, political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it.

    Those who criticize this decision have lost sight of a basic truth: the answer to speech they disagree with is not to restrict that speech, but to answer it with more speech. This decision will ensure that, as Justice Kennedy said twenty years ago in his dissent in the Austin case, there is no stifling of “the voices of some of the most respected groups in public life on subjects central to the integrity of our democratic system.” The First Amendment specifically says that Congress shall pass no law abridging the right to speak. Justice Scalia properly addresses the applicability of this right to corporations (profit or nonprofit):

    The Amendment is written in terms of “speech,” not speakers. Its text offers no foothold for excluding any category of speakers, from single individuals to partnerships of individuals, to unincorporated associations of individuals, to incorporated associations of individuals…Indeed, to exclude or impede corporate speech is to muzzle the principal agents of the modern free economy. We should celebrate rather than condemn the addition of this speech to the public debate.

    Posted in Legal [slideshow_deploy]

    87 Responses to Citizens United v. FEC: A Landmark Decision in Favor of Free Speech

    1. Bobbie Jay says:

      “ancient First Amendment principles." Obviously we've been dealing with uneducated or disrespecting, ignorance, of the court members,whom can't see the strength and freedom this "ancient" document, equally gives to all mankind.

      Let the "ancient" first amendment principles stand and stand strong! Let the courts and all Americans respect it, dismiss their personal intimidation, and if necessary, let anyone hold anyone else who speaks but doesn't act, (or whatever the case,) accountable. What the court is for.

      Because there are people new to America, this needs to be more prevalent today!…. Let Freedom Ring!

    2. Mike Plowman Provo U says:

      The problem with this is where the speech is free, the right to buy that speech is corruption. Don't forget that while Freedom of speech is critical, so is the opportunity for that speech, if we are not careful we will no longer be the United States of America, but the United Companies of America. This is the right's Socialism. I am neither republican nor Democrat, but a moderate independent who believes the entire congress needs to be replaced.

    3. micki, oregon says:

      The Bill of Rights was written to protect individuals from their government. The body of the Constitution was designed to to accomplish the promises set out in the Preamble, thus ordering our government to protect us from organizations within and without our borders so as to function democratically. I think Justice Stevens was correct to state that a corporation is not an individual, nor did the founders expect a corporation to be the recipients of free speech in the political realm.

      Isn't it contradictory enough in our democracy to have a lobbying industry with unimaginable access to our government without cooking up outlandish theories, disregarding recent and past precedents, and applying personal economic ideology to grant corporations free speech protections that would make James Madison roll over in his grave?

      What happened to judicial minimalism, strict constructionism, judicial restraint?

      Left by the side of the road for blatant ideological vulgarities. Such hyprocrisy.

    4. J Tarbell, Caspar CA says:

      You continue the masquerade that this case is about speech. It is really about the power of money to control our democracy in the narrow interests of corporations. The Roberts Court majority is the result of a long campaign funded by corporate money to create a conservative political movement that serves the interests of its corporate benefactors. The American people should pass a constitutional amendment to eliminate corporate personhood, and create publicly financed elections to make sure that special interest money does not control our democracy.

    5. Pingback: Micah Tillman » Blog Archive » Can Corporations Talk?

    6. troubledPatriot, Sou says:

      It appears many, especially progressives, are lamenting this decision. However, I must agree with the Supreme court, speech is speech. If we wish to diminish the impact of large corporations versus the individual we need to intelligently revised our campaign finance laws or perhaps apply term limits to our legislatures.

    7. Pingback: BlueRidgeForum » High Court Boosts Free Speech, Curtails McCain-Feingold

    8. Chairm says:

      What do you make of Justice Thomas' dissent on the disclosure of personal information of financial contributors?

      If the 1st is about speech rather than speakers, how can disclosure be permissable or even regulated by size of the (anonymous) speaker's financial contribution(s)?

      Do you think the US Supreme Court will connect this Citizen United ruling with the case pending on petition signers?

    9. D Whit, Texas says:

      I was not aware of this prohibition, and am glad to see it removed. It is incredibly bizarre that the same administration that has enjoyied the money of special interest and back door dealing and handouts in this healthcare bill and stimulus (slush fund), is now going to lecture the American people about the evils of allowing corporations to buy transparant tv ad space, etc. Incredible!

      Look, I don't doubt that wayward corporations will use this liberty to engage in misleading speech, but the answer is not to prohibit it, but for an informed and egaged voting politic to be involved. "The price of Liberty is eternal vigiliance", not "The price of Liberty is a little Tyranny".

    10. A_Different_Take says:

      Perhaps this was not argued wisely. I agree that this IS all about speech, but Freedom of the Press would have made this all clearer.

      The Press entails, by definition, a costly physical means to disseminate speech — A printing press, radio or TV station, Internet servers, etc. Freedom of the Press guarantees that someone can take money — and usually it takes a lot! — to build, buy, or rent "press time" (called advertising.) Clearly it is usually corporations that even buy these physical- dissemination-devices but at any rate it is forbidden to abridge the right to use money to utilize these physical- dissemination-devices. Freedom of the Press is ALL about using money to buy the means of disseminating speeh and arguing it that way might have silenced the criticism that the corporate use of money is not protected free speech.

    11. Daverino Ft. Worth says:

      It's obvious based on the comments that many people still don't understand the role of the private sector in maintaining the wealth and status of this nation.

      US Corporations pay taxes and presumably employ US citizens therefore they have a vested interest in our government's policies. They would never in general vote for $1,000 toilet seats because their taxes would increase. Contrast that to people who pay no taxes. Do they have a similar vested interest? No. So maybe we should eliminate their right to vote? Sounds radical–but do you let your children decide what car you should drive? No–why not–you'd let them vote. The reason is the same–they have no financial interest in the outcome.

      Yesterday's government in our lives–merely was responsible for providing a level palying field for corporations. In today's world where global competition is everywhere and who our corporations are competing with might or might not be a foreign governement sponsored entity–our government is responsible for a whole lot more. It helps to choose winners and losers everyday. Farm subsidies, FDA approvals, sin taxes, FDIC and a million other government decisions often ultimately determine if a product or service makes or loses money for a company–so by tying some companies hands and giving free reign and access to others, we have been further tilting the field toward the "haves versus the have nots."

      Those who would claim that corporate $ will rule the day and determine everything are distorting reality. When Apple first introduced the MAC their one single SuperBowl add changed the PC world. As opposed to the billions of dollars in leverage that the IBM clones could've used to compete against them. Will greater resources have an advantage going forward–sure but they always have. This just puts the reality more in the daylight where people can see it.

      This single act will do more to clean up political corruption than anything else tried in the last 100 years.

      BTW–doesn't anyone really want to know where all of Pres Obama's campaign funds really came from anymore?

    12. Howard Mollohan says:

      I have supported everything you have covered–health care,cap & trade, immigration,military trials for "prisoners of war". However, you are dead wrong on this one, in my opinion. This will truly turn the election process over to those with the most money–vast amounts of money to trow around and sway an election has nothing to do with "free speach". I stand by one person one vote–not undue advertising by major corps. We should minimize TV ad's-not increase them.

      Shame on Heritage for supporting this decision–it is not conservative

    13. Jeanne Stotler,Woodb says:

      While I believe in free speech, I do not feel allowing big corp. to be able to control the rest of us. That is the problem today, the money controls the outcome. By limiting what anyone individual or corp. can contribute to a certain group or party helps to level the playing field when it comes to elections. It'll take a lot of us and we will have to dig deep, to compete with Hollywood and other liberals. Unions have long leaned to the liberals as do most huge corps. it's the small businesses and we, the everyday citizens who want this country back to what it was intended to be.

    14. Pingback: A tremendous victory for free speech for citizens « Refugee Resettlement Watch

    15. Don Harper, Lubbock, says:

      If we wish to reduce the influence of corporations on politicians, we must reduce the power of government over corporations. Mandatory disclosure of contributions and contributors should hold corruption in check if We, the People, pay attention.

    16. Violet Osmun says:

      When i heard a Citizens United member say it was a right decision,I knew it was a good one.

      and when I heard Senator Schumer say it was a wrong one,I knew again,

      It was the right one!!


    17. Phil S, NC says:

      The Constitution and Rights are for the People not faceless Corporations and Groups. Individuals only.

    18. okiejim says:

      Poor Chucky Shumer. Now everyone can benefit from corporate campaign donations instead of just the Dems. What a shame, It would appear that freedom of speech is not part of the Dems philosophy when it pertains to all. TOO BAD!!!

    19. LoachDriver, Colorad says:

      Although I voted for John McCain in the presidential election of '08 I have long disliked McCain/Feingold because it restricts pro-life advocacy through the Nat'l Right-to-Cmte, a corporation, and other pro-life organizations which also are corporations.

      Consequently, I Catholic am unimpressed by the belly-aching that corporations aren't individuals. In short, the notion I may not band together with other Pro-Lifers to express our opinions of politicians & legislation is IMO obscene & directly contrary to the intend of the Founding Fathers. It's also an attitude expressed by the red star wearing types against whom I fought in Viet-Nam..

      No, I'm not a Republican. Rather I'm a (longtime) Prohibitionist.

      Yes, the Prohibition Party still exists. See http://www.prohibitionists.org. But avoid prohibition.org because that website is maintained by party dissidents.

      Why would a Catholic belong to the Prohibition Party? Largely because it's the only political party of which I'm aware that has a Pro-Life plank in its platform.

    20. Jill Thorne, Ledyard says:

      It is interesting that this is happening at a time when our tax dollars are being used by the current administration to criticize and control numerous corporations in this country. They are criticized as entities, indeed villified as entities. It is a good thing for our demoncracy that they will be allowed to speak politically as entities.

    21. John, MI says:

      It never ceases to amaze me when I hear people express their fear that corporations will "take over" or "control" our society if we allow them to advertise their political opinions. Corporations cannot control you, or our society, unless you decide to NOT think for yourself. Are we as individuals in this great nation incapable of thinking for ourselves and evaluating what we see and hear? When the politicians decide what we can see and hear, then I truly fear for our country's future. Free speech is protected so that all ideas can be expressed, although not necessarily heard, and then evaluated in the light of day. Censorship never eradicates bad ideas – it only sends them into hiding.

    22. antonio caetano, Fre says:

      I prefer to speak for myself. I don't want GM or McDonald's or Starbucks or Walmart or any other corporations in which I own stock, speaking for me.

      What next? Will Corporations want the right to marry? Unfortunately, I suspect Heritage would support that faster than if it were two human beings.

      antonio caetano

    23. Tim in Jacksonville,Fl. says:

      It would have been nice had you have printed how the vote went down. The majority was made up of who? Isn’t that one of the first rules of reporting?

    24. TJS, FL says:

      Freedom is freedom. Make no law means make no law. Any questions?

    25. tommy says:

      get the crooks,tax cheats,amd most of the Dems.out of office come election day…make this a Nation of truth once again……..stop big money from running the country…….stop saying ( obama ) we are sorry…….Being a former Marine in the late 50s through the eailier 60s i'm prould of this country but i'm sorry for the way some poltians have ran this on a dpwn hill path…..Our so called leaders and mixed,tax cheats courrpt ,and liars,who care nothing for the people who put them in office……..Semple Fi

    26. Rod E., La Crosse, W says:

      I have belonged to the National Rifle Association for years. I pay dues to the NRA solely because that organization (formed as a corporation) diligently applies the dues of hundreds of thousands of people like me to preserve the 2nd Amendment. Now that the Supreme Court has upended at least part of the liberty-stealing McCain-Feingold law, my NRA (yes, my NRA, not some big, bad corporation) will again be able to utilize our dues to fight for our 2nd Amendment rights up to the very moment we cast our ballots, instead of being tethered for the last few weeks, unable to work for it's members.

      On another point, the law (as I understand it) had an exception built in to protect corporations that were "legitimate" news organizations (under the guise of protecting true political speech, I presume.) Perhaps this explains the Obama administration's ongoing effort to label Fox News as "illegitimate"? Far-fetched? Nothing is far-fetched when it comes to politics. This decision was excellent, restoring constitutional speech to me and to millions of others who pay dues to organizations that support our personal ideals. Hopefully a dozen more such decisions are waiting in the wings.

    27. Rod E., La Crosse, W says:

      Antonio wrote: "I prefer to speak for myself. I don’t want GM or McDonald’s or Starbucks or Walmart or any other corporations in which I own stock, speaking for me."

      Which is exactly why the corporations everyone is thinking about in the context of this decision will tend to rein in their spending unless it is directed at issues/candidates that threaten the well-being of the stockholders generally. A corporation has no desire to drive off half of its shareholders by publicly taking political stances on highly controversial issues that don't directly affect the shareholders as a group. If, however, one candidate directly threatens the well-being of a corporation, and by extension its shareholders, I, as a shareholder, would want them to fight for the other candidate right up until the last vote is cast.

    28. John B. San Diego says:

      A breath of fresh air is what yesterdays Supreme Court Ruling is!

      I suppose those in disagreement , should talk to their nearest local Constitutional Legal Expert, dissent is what our Constitution is all about, so I appreciate the dissenting opinions and respect rights of anyone with differing thought process or vehicle they chose to convey that differing opine.

      This is bigger than Government or we how chose those who represent us.

      If you will recall this Ancient Document is not old, it is timeless prophetic wisdom that document's purpose was to limit the power of Government. The problem is that through complacency and indifference we have allowed Government to grow too large and powerful. No corporation, Union, or Organized Group can or should pull that handle or select that box for you or for that matter any group of you.

      Look at how we have it now community organizing groups practically buying votes or engaged in using Government funds to organize campaigns and register voters to certain party interests all behind the scene. Or organized groups funneling otherwise too large campaign contribution through shadow groups and dead individuals. Unions donating workers union dues to particular party candidates or legislation agendas without specific worker approval.

      And you're even suggesting candidates and support for legilation has not been bought and paid for the way we have it now.

      The thought that we have evolved to a point of cognizance and social presence of mind that trumps the timeless ancient wisdom is ridiculous. This expression by progressives that we in this decedent narcissistic social environment have somehow out grown Our Constitution is what should be watched like a hawk.

      The farther we remove ourselves from what has made this great country the more peril we will face as a people and a nation.

    29. Chris, Maryland says:


      What is a "U.S. Corporation?"

      Under the logic of this case, isn't any corporation which operates in the U.S. eligible to undertake political campaigns in the U.S.? Including those owned by foreign governments?

    30. Rick74 says:

      Micki said – Isn’t it contradictory enough in our democracy to have a lobbying industry with unimaginable access to our government without cooking up outlandish theories, disregarding recent and past precedents, and applying personal economic ideology to grant corporations free speech protections that would make James Madison roll over in his grave?

      I agree with this decision to remove restrictions on all groups that want to participate in the political arena by speaking to the voting public. This is Freedom of Speech, and it should not be restricted for any individual or group.

      That said, I would appreciate any effort made to dissuade, discourage, restrict, regulate, limit, or otherwise get rid of direct lobbying of government representatives at any level.

      Key corporate representatives (eg. the CEO of a company) should be allowed to bring grievances to the attention of the Senator or Representative for the state or district in which the company is incorporated and in which the grievance is based, exercising the same rights to representation as any individual voter.

      Yet lobbyists in the employment of the company should not be proposing legislation to any Senator or Representative.

      Turning off the money and influence spigot to our Senators and Representatives is not an abridgement of free speech; it would instead be a tourniquet stanching the very flow of corruption and influence that prompts our representatives to be continually campaigning vice focusing on making government work.

      Corporations and unions should be free to spend whatever they want in marketing their ideas to the public; they should be restricted in the strongest manner from spending anything on “influencing” our local, state, and Federal officials.

    31. Drew Page, IL says:

      Daverino in TX got it right. I couldn't agree more. Given the choice of picking between the government and businesses as to which would do more to restore the economy, I'd pick business every time.

    32. Tom Painter says:

      In response to the following comments:

      1. Mike Plowman Provo Utah on January 21st, 2010 at 7:34pm said:

      "The problem with this is where the speech is free, the right to buy that speech is corruption…………………."…….if we are not careful we will no longer be the United States of America, but the United Companies of America".

      2. micki, oregon on January 21st, 2010 at 7:34pm said:

      "I think Justice Stevens was correct to state that a corporation is not an individual, nor did the founders expect a corporation to be the recipients of free speech in the political realm………..Isn’t it contradictory enough in our democracy to have a lobbying industry with unimaginable access to our government"

      3. J Tarbell, Caspar CA on January 21st, 2010 at 7:34pm said:

      "You continue the masquerade that this case is about speech. It is really about the power of money to control our democracy in the narrow interests of corporations."

      4. Rick74 on January 21st, 2010 at 7:34pm said:

      "I agree with this decision to remove restrictions on all groups that want to participate in the political arena by speaking to the voting public. This is Freedom of Speech, and it should not be restricted for any individual or group………That said, I would appreciate any effort made to dissuade, discourage, restrict, regulate, limit, or otherwise get rid of direct lobbying of government representatives at any level."……….."lobbyiats should not be proposing legislation to any Senator or Representative."

      5. Howard Mollohan on January 21st, 2010 at 7:34pm said:

      "This will truly turn the election process over to those with the most money–vast amounts of money to trow around and sway an election has nothing to do with “free speach”."

      6. Jeanne Stotler,Woodbridge, Va on January 21st, 2010 at 7:34pm said:

      "While I believe in free speech, I do not feel allowing big corp. to be able to control the rest of us."

      In none of those complaints is there evidence of the understanding that the restrictions that have been lifted were never, in McCain-Feingold, restrictions that applied to the daily 24/7/365 political content of "corporations", such as:

      General Electric Corp, owners of NBC. MSNBC, Universal Studios;

      The Walt Disney Company (ABC, ESPN, Disney cable channels);

      National Amusements, Inc. – owners of the CBS network, as well as Viacom (cable channels BET, MTV, CMT, Comedy Central & more), Paramount Pictures;

      Time Warner, Inc. (CNN, HBO, Turner Broadcasting System, Warner Bros, Time Inc. ["Time" magazine];

      News Corp. (Fox Broadcasting, cable channels such as – Fox Business Network, Fox Classics, Fox Movie Channel, Fox News Channel, film maker – such as Twentieth Century Fox, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal;

      The New York Times Company – owners of The New York Times, The Boston Globe and the Herald Tribune (owners of 15 newspapers);

      The Washington Post Company – The Washington Post and 11 other newspapers, the magazine "Newsweek" and Slate.Com.

      And when we acknowledge how their political content was not restricted, it is also an uncontested fact that that content is, was, and has been far and away predominately leftist in it's political bias and it is equally uncontested that the "entertainment" content of the majority of these "corporations" has served to distribute, and sell that same leftward bias in the form of the story-line, dialogue and images they presented; and all of which is permitted to be as direct or indirectly pro or con a person or issue as those corporations wish, at anytime, ANYTIME, and certainly not restricted be any election schedule.

      But, until just the other day, a "corporation" (for profit or non-profit) outside of the league of protected corporations noted above, could not try to counter, through "the press", what one or more of those`protected corporations sold to the public as a candidate's positions, too near an election, no matter how near that election those protected corporations did THEIR political advocacy.

      People decry "lobbying" but "news and entertainment" has become 24/7/365 de facto lobbying for liberal & leftist interests. Not being owners of a 24.7/365 "broadcast" or "print" political viewpoint distribution network themselves, the unprotected corporations are OBLIGED to address their petition for redress of grievances directly and personally with the legislators. The people that make the most of the lobbying complaint have that same "press" for their chagrin that what the "press" sold aa the issues and the solutions was, after informed deliberation, altered by "lobbying".

      Often, had those who have no media bullhorn of their own, been able to obtain the public access that the media has, to inform the public of the principles and nature of their position, the public, striped of it's media induced ignorance would realize how often some group of "lobbyists" was actually seeking a result that would be in our best interest.

      Lastly, if any of those complaining about "lobbyists" ever saw some legislation heading away from THEIR interest, they would find themselves first understanding the relevant law, next understanding the change proposed in the law and next trying to determine a different change that would not hurt THEIR interests so much. If they win over their representative, to their view, that representative will not re-invent their solution, from scratch; why would they.

      And whose "individual interests" does a corporation protect, when it protects the property rights, the individual rights and the economic health of it's enterprise – the jobs of it's individual employees, the individuals and individual entities that comprise it's owners, the individual communities it serves and pays local taxes to, it's individual suppliers and customers.

    33. randy sa tx says:

      Robert Weissman: “What we really need is to get the decision undone. If the court won’t reverse its own decision, the only course available to us is a constitutional amendment. We have to say the First Amendment exists to protect the rights of real people, of you and me, not artificial creations known as corporations, not for Exxon, not for Pfizer, not for Goldman Sachs"

    34. Price, CO says:

      It is disappointing to see so many people take the "evil corporation" mentality here. What has happened is that, whether aware or not, we have all been granted the right to listen to anyone we want to regarding politics.

      In the past we were not given this right. We as a people were not allowed to hear the opinions from groups that were not approved of by government. The same government that pro ports to say this was for our own good.

      This is speech we are talking about, and although it can be moving and powerful, it is not controlling. We have the right to listen or not to. In fact we can listen and choose to disagree. We can choose to intentionally vote or act against those that we listened to.

      This is nothing new.

      But now, amazingly, or Constitutional Right to listen has been upheld.

    35. John B. San Diego says:

      This decision does not tie our hands it unties our hands.

      The campaign is brought to light rather than hiding in the shadows, those in fear of the light must have something to hide or they are in fear of being affiliated with some Group, Union, OR some Organization that has something to hide.

      Just because big money says vote for "Our Guy or Gal" does that intend or suggest we mindless robots march to the polls and vote for that candidate?

      In contrast voters could be turned-off by “Big Money” and vote opposite if you only had a brain. .

      ”Our Constitution frightens the Be-Jeebers out of some people——–I like IT!!!!”

      What are you frightened about Corporations don't vote for you or anyone else.

      Are you saying you are too busy and your friends are too busy to decide the candidate of choice for yourselves?

      If so that explains a lot to me!

      Oh –yeah I’m not a CEO of anything!

    36. D Whit, Texas says:

      I think Democrats are going to lock on to this issue going forward to November, thinking that the American public will not be able to interpret it as a victory for healthy constitutional reform, and ultimately are going to get another Mass-like blow up on their hands.

    37. Blair, Franconia, NH says:

      I don't know about this. Campaign finance reform isn't my best argument. It's like

      math. I'm not good at math and I don't understand McCain-Feingold. Nobody does.

      You'd need a math degree, a degree in economics, a law degree, and an ability to

      read legalese in order to understand it. Supreme Court opinions and Acts of Congress AREN'T written in plain English. In order to understand an Act of Congress,

      you need a degree in beaurocratese,

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    41. JimH CA says:

      I am more conservative than any of you are, but this decision is wrong, wrong, wrong.

      What is the purpose of a donation? To obtain votes, right? I am not allowed to vote more than once, and only where I live. If I can donate money to some politician in another state, why am I prohibited from flying to that state and vote myself. My money was used to gain votes, but you will not allow me to vote there.

      A candidate must be required to collect directly, and only, from people who are registered to vote for that candidate. That would mean the end of Corporation donations, the end of PACs, the end of the Hollywood left and the Religious right. Only a registered voter would be permitted to contribute, and a scan of the voter registration rolls would determine if a donation was legal.

      Voting is considered about the greatest privilege a citizen has, so if the law can be written that permits only one vote per person, it can be written to permit only donations to a candidate the donator can vote for.

      A Corporation can not actually, physically vote, so a Corporation should not be permitted to donate to any politician.

      I am not in favor of it, but that does not mean a non-person can not pay for an advertisement, but it must be done by that “person” and it must be identified as to who paid for it, and the politician can not be involved in any way with that advertisement.

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    44. Noah Kerwin says:

      Now that the Corporatocracy ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporatocracy ) has the full backing of the combined sum of it's treasuries to increase the volume of it's freedom of speech, I believe I shall more frequently and more vigorously express my discontent about the situation.

    45. john Martinez says:

      So now we get to see ads from corporations (many of which are foreign owned) telling us who we should vote for? Or worse, slandering decent Americans wanting your vote. Al-Qaida Inc. here we go.

    46. Dexter60, San Franci says:

      It is nice to see Free Speech discussed freely, even if there are some poor souls who think that either poor people or ignorant sounding people or rich people should be restricted in some way — I especially took note of what should happen if two or more people happen to form a group, to speak with one voice, according to some: can't allow that, not fair, corruption — so much of a struggle. Perhaps we should just scrap the whole thing, the bill of Rights just causes a lot of trouble, makes some people crazy. Especially that number two.

      Let's just have the Government decide what rights they will let us have and for how long — like free medical for everybody, for awhile.

      The government media, schools and the millionaires in congress need all those freedoms more than we do, after all we are here only to pay the bills they generate — how much freedom does one really need to do that? We have all the freedom of speech we need right here to talk about McCain-Feingold and how such a thing could have been signed into law in the first place by the corruptocratic government that promises free speech until it begins to count. Like, when does a government get too big to fail?

      Oh, and thanks for sharing.


    47. Scott Sarran says:

      Corporations are a legal form of association of individuals commonly known as shareholders. Whether for profit or not, this case rightly affirmed their constitutional right to free speech on an equal footing with any other association. Let us thank the court for its wisdom in relieving tyranny here!

      Certain members of the electorate seem to feel that the corruption in Washington is to blame on the corporate legal form. Where does such misplaced blame and paranoia for this originate? They miss the point.

      There was money and corruption in capitals long before this case. The old Capitol was moved from New York to D.C. to mitigate the corruption inherent in pairing a financial capital with a political capitol. The cure for corruption is decreased concentration of power, increased transparency and accountability. More money for speech leads to more informed speech; fostering transparency and accountability of candidates to their electorate. I believe term limits are also needed to mitigate pursuit, and concentration of, power.

    48. Ocala,fl says:

      Here comes the lunatic left again! "Unions good, Corporations bad!". How clueless these people are! Commies are always pro-union and here is the difference: union bosses vote democrat/leftist/marxist/communist all the same, whils their MEMBERS VOTE CONSERVATIVE; corporations vote CONSERVATIVE(unless they are paying bribes to a communist/socialist govt for favors, IE, General Electric and the GREEN JOBS NONSENSE!) AS DOES THE MAJORITY OF THEIR EMPLOYEES! WHY CONSERVATIVE? LESS GOVERNMENT and LESS TAXES and GOVT OUT OF OUR LIVES! DEMORAT= more government=more control of the people=higher taxes=fewer jobs=less prosperity. Unions DESTROY EVERY COMPANY AND EVERY SINGLE ENTITY THEY GET INVOLVED WITH! OH NO? CHECK IT OUT….AMERICAN AUTO INDUSTRY DESTROYED. TEACHERS ASSO/TEACHERS NO LONGER TEACH, THEY ARE HARDLY THERE IN THE CLASS ROOM. GOVT EMPLOYEES? NOW HERE IS A TRAGIC GROUP OF PEOPLE IF EVER THERE WAS ONE…JUST GO TO A DMV! And they can't be fired no matter the level of INCOMPETENCE!!!!

    49. Ricard Vermilyea, Ho says:

      When the first amendment states that "Congress shall make no law.." that should settle the issue as far as the government's ability to restrict freedom of speech or the press. And who constitutes the "Press"? Anyone or any organization that has a printing press or who can hire the use threof. Coca Cola or the Boy Scouts of America are as much a free Press as the New York Times. I can make no special distinction between them as far as entities entitled to express their opinions.

    50. Ocala,fl says:

      The actual FAIR way to handle the voting PROBLEM in this country is: No money from ANY organization, UNIONS or CORPORATIONS el al! And elimination of THUG GROUPS LIKE ACORN! It also would not hurt to have a news media which REPORTED THE TRUTH! That way we would not end up with a PRESIDENT who : NEVER HAD A JOB in the private sector; completely inexperienced in world affairs; devoid of American history; does not even know how many states there are, NO Mr O its not 57! knows the social security system is broke and the reasons WHY!; knows we do not need another horribly run entity like THE POST OFFICE(look at UPS! private and successful! While UNIONIZED FED X Having problems…duh! what else would you expect?!. knows Marxism/communism DOES NOT WORK!!!!!

    51. John, New York says:

      The founding fathers never intended for the bill of rights to extend to legal fictions, such as corporations and I am shocked that this is being hailed as "victory" for freedom of speech. This was a terrible decision that will further erode the foundation of our democracy.

    52. Pingback: “NY Times Dismisses First Amendment Victory at Supreme Court, Sees “Strike at Heart of Democracy”” and related posts | Trendsa

    53. duelles, santa fe says:

      Okay then! If Ibelieve that that Bill of Rights addresses our individual rights, just how does this decision fit with that? Our we to interpret corporations and non-profits to seen as individuals in the eyes of the court? Are they already that I am unaware of?

      Help me out here, please.

    54. Mike, Wichita Falls says:

      The general theme of dissent here appears to be that corps are not individuals therefore their speech is not protected. Well, the Constitution does not say it is exclusively an individual right.

      People, whether as individuals or as groups be those profits or non-profits, large or small businesses, religious or non-religious, etc. cannot violate the Constitution; only Congress is capable of doing so because it says, "Congress shall make no law…", and they most certainly did with McCain-Feingold.

      Finally, the operative word here is speech, not speakers, as Justice Scalia points out so eloquently. Don't let my kids hear this, but we want more speech, not less.

    55. randy sa tx says:

      big biz is overreaching! they didnt learn the lessons from the dems.

    56. Randy Houston TX says:

      Business and Industry were supposed to have a voice in the government and that voice was to be heard through a state government elected Senate, not elected by the people who were represented in the House of Representatives. Checks and balances. The 17th Amendment removed my Constitutionally mandated voice from our government. Our founders believed contentious debate essential to the effective management of the respective powers of any group.

      A corporation is in effect a person. It's voice is it's CEO. As was mentioned earlier, I am taxed and regulated, who will represent me? It's popular today to point fingers at financial institutions, but it takes two to enter into a contract. There are significantly more employees than employers, more borrowers than lenders, etc. Certainly more than enough to vote against policy detrimental to the people as we saw earlier this week in MA.

      What is lacking is the resolve to hold ourselves as well as our elected representatives accountable. We created this with out apathy.

    57. Cynthia, Chico, CA says:

      The Supreme Court ruling allowing corporations the right to make campaign contributions sounds good but I need more explanation about corporations. All state, county, and city governments are corporations. Does this allow those corporations to back their corporate intity, plus the government unions backing the government, and then individuals who believe in more government to fight against private corporations? I am concerned about the power of government corporations.

      When will the Supreme Court rule against limits in personal contributions. That is also a limit to free speech.

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    59. Mike, Jacksonville F says:

      Much of the Campaign Finance laws are going to remain intact as I interpret this ruling. Those who have NOT studied nor understand the massive restrictions and the structure of those laws would be WELL ADVISED to study them in depth.

      What McCain-Feingold has done is create layer after layer of "legal" methods of controlling the "incumbent party" in Congress and getting them re-elected. ONE earmark by a Congressman or Senator can lead to 10 layers of campaign donations from PAC's, lobbyists, Corporate execs who support the PAC's and lobbyists, the Jr. Execs of Corporations, the stockholders of Corporations, bundled donations, and that list goes endlessly on.

      ONE $2-3 million dollar earmark can account for upwards of $200-300 THOUSAND of dollars in campaign donations to a sitting Congressman. In spite of trying to FORCE transparency, it has created a system in which there is so many hidden levels of donations, it takes DAYS to trace the money given to the "incumbent party" in Washington. McCain-Feingold did NOTHING but make it nearly impossible for ANY challenger to garner legs to win.

      Does this ruling change any of that? Not based on what I interpret. It ONLY allows Corporations, Non-profits, unions, etc. to NOT be blocked from the arena of FREE SPEECH. IF you and 20 friends wanted to pool funds, air a commercial AGAINST a politician, under the law prior to this ruling, you COULD NOT DO IT. Today, you can.

      No matter WHAT kind of "campaign finance law" you create, those who have the means will find ways to skirt it or use it to their advantage. Personally, let's TOTALLY eliminate ALL restrictions on Campaign finance, remove ALL limits on donations, who can donate, and disclosure requirements, and LET THE CHIPS fall where they may. This way, at least a group of people COULD work together and finance an opposition candidate to an incumbent who is TOTALLY compromised.

      Right now, 87% of ALL campaign finance money comes from 14% of the people. So I ask, WHO has the leverage and WHO benefits from that leverage??

      Answer: THE INCUMBENT PARTY in office today.

    60. Brian K says:

      In my opinion the case is simple. First Amendment states "CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW…or abridging the freedom of speech. It is that simple.

    61. Larry M. Meyer Kalam says:


      The "Constitutional Republic stands, ONE Nation, Under GOD, Indivisible; with Freedom and Liberty for ALL!"

    62. Mark Kostelic, Color says:


      The real issue here is not freedom of speech, it is corporations having the same rights as citizens. Currently they do (free speech, etc.), and this is causing severe abuse of citizens.

      I don't believe corporations should have the same rights as citizens. I also don't believe corporations should pay taxes. Citizens should pay to regulate the corporations, not the corporations themselves. This would help avoid conflict-of-interest situations. Additionally, corporate taxes are really a

      More importantly, taxes on corporations and regulation (necessary) by the Fed establishes a conflict of interest between the two. . For example, the Fed can entice a corporation to locate in a particular city by offering tax breaks. This is wrong. The Fed should never be in a position to offer "carrots or sticks". This leads to blackmail and corruption. The Fed should keep to providing goods and services to the citizens; regulating corporations is one of those services.

      Finally, the Fed should simply be ensuring a fair competition amoung corporations – a level playing field – not getting directly involved in the competition like they have been (public private partnerships, etc.) Seems both the people and the government have totally lost track of their roles. They can't see the line between what is properly a government job and what is private job. I'm thankful that Heritage tries to educate and bring clarity to this huge problem.

      Mark Kostelic

      Elbert, Colorado

    63. Don Ror says:

      The first amendment regarding freedom of speech reads: "Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech,……”

      Those then words are simple enough even second grade students may read them and comprehend what is meant. The left-wing, liberal thugs including John McCain who sponsored the McCain/Feingold muzzle on free speech, have done their best to squelch the ability of free Americans to say what they think. No wonder the liberal-left is about to blow out its brains over this decision,.

      Chalk up "a well done" for the U.S. Supreme Court and the free people of the United States of America!!!!!!

    64. Keith Klein, McKinne says:

      Does an individual lose his constitutional right to free (political) speech just because he joins with others to deliver the message (ie. through Union membership, or shareholder ownership of Corporations, etc.)? Or because an election is approaching? I think not.

    65. Adam says:

      the problem is that the bill pretty much defined a corporation as any group f people. I wanted to get a coupple of people i knew togetehr to run an add against a certain canidate we were going to spend a total of $1500 combined. I was advised that we were advised that it was illegal. what this aw really did was prohibit small middle class people from expressing their opinions. big corporations have always been able to imfluence elections. I am grateful that my consitutional right to critize the government has been restored.

    66. Stan Roe, Mount Vern says:

      I have looked into all of the comments about his ruling by different blogs and the media. Only a few mention the fact that corporations that have foreign members on the board can also spend as much money as they so desire on any one's campaign. Does this mean that China or Saudi Arabia or Israel can influence the elections in America? I understand the protection of the first amendment but you still cannot holler FIRE! in a crowded auditorium. Can anyone give me more answers on this subject?

    67. john,AZ says:

      It is truly amazing. Anyone with a thimble full of logic should be able to read the First Amendment, deducing that Congress shall make no law resticting freedom of speech, association…..those two caveats spell it pretty clear….what part of no law is so hard to fathom? Individudal are to have freedom of speech, freedom to associcate (corporations) covers the balance. The problem seems to be, elitest want to read mor into the simplistic statement than appears. The founders broke from the noblilty and aristocracy. If one looks up the definition of aristocracy, one of the definings discriptions is: and elitist attitude either from education or birth that supposes superiority over others. Gee! Harvard, or the other Ivy League educational enterprises…..makes you think.

    68. Eric, California says:

      The kindest thing I can say about your perspective is *delusional*. "Ancient Principles?" What a load, try 1886 and Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad. That's when a clerk erroneously entered a loophole that corporations have been successfully exploiting ever since. And we know how Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, felt about that nonsense. The Trust-Buster is rolling over in his grave.

      Our Founding Fathers fought with blood and guts to insure every PERSON (you know, living breathing carbon-based individuals) had inalienable rights of free speech; multinational, multibillion-dollar corps. have no problem accessing our elected officials at the highest levels and they can send press releases until the cows come home expressing their opinions, but they are expressly NOT individuals protected under the 14th amendment, which was designed to protect the weakest members of our society — former slaves, not the strongest and most powerful, the corporate elite. This too shall pass, and we will have our democracy back…

    69. Liz says:

      It is scary to think that now Chavez and his oil "corporation" can influence our elections. A legal entity is not a person. How is a corporation, something created on paper for a fee, considered protected by the Constitution for speech? Our democracy will now be available to any country, any terrorist, with a corporation and money. God help us.

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    73. Matt Donato, Pinevil says:

      A sound and reasoned decision. The statement "Those who criticize this decision have lost sight of a basic truth: the answer to speech they disagree with is not to restrict that speech, but to answer it with more speech. " says it all and refutes any opposition to the Court's decision. Am also pleased to read that: "The Court also found that free speech rights under the First Amendment do not depend on a speaker’s financial ability to engage in public discussion – the fact that some speakers may have more wealth than others does not diminish their First Amendment rights." . Glad to see a cementing of this Liberty, let's hope others will follow!

    74. John B. San Diego says:

      The "SCOTUS DECISION" should only be feared by mindless morons! No patriot should fear for our nation! We Americans are the strongest nation on earth! No amount of persuasion from any corporation should sway anyone from making the right choice at the polls! Are you telling me you can't make your own educated decision based on a candidate's past voting record and what is laid out during the campaign previous to the election? I hereby accuse all in fear of this ruling as not involved, lackadaisical "give a blank"; sound bite indulging non-patriots.

      Prove me wrong— we voters have the right and "God Given Ability" to impose "Term Limits" at each and every election if we have moral conviction and a well educated opinion of those running for office. And I don't care how much money is flying in what direction.

      You see "The Price of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance" and that might require you take a part of your personal time to think about who is running this country!

    75. SmithCommaJohn, San says:

      My feelings are far more mixed than those of the detractors and cheerleaders of this decision. I don't predict that this decision will have apocalyptic results, as the hardcore detractors seem to believe. At the same time, I'm not jubilant about it.

      While I value the right to free speech, even for (gasp!) rich people, I think that corporate influence in elections is not something to be taken lightly, and some legislation to blunt the impact of this decision might be warranted. http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2010/01/29/citizens

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    77. Kevin, Oklahoma says:

      While I do not share the vision that this spells doom for American democracy, I DO believe it is but another brick in the wall of paid for politicians and this is not what democracy is about. Who decides which candidate a corporations favors? The shareholders? The people making up the corporation? The board of directors? The CEO? If it is not ALL of the above then this decision is not democratic and has no place in our election process. I am a life time NRA member and yet I strongly opposed their last minute approval of John McCain, a man who had been SPOKESMAN for many anti gun groups and the co author of blanket amnesty. Though I agree this would make it easier for the NRA to support a candidate I have NEVER been asked by the NRA which candidate I approve of. Money should not be the basis upon which an election is decided, contributions should be limited, corporations should represent their constituency. Candidates should not be groomed for their malleability but for the scope of their vision and their willingness to do what is right for Americans AND America. I can see no reason why a company subsidiary of a foreign corporation should be able to fund an election campaign in this country. END OF STORY-wave the flag or spout gas-these are the REAL issues.

    78. JCB, San Francisco says:

      First, there is a gross typo in the first paragraph of your story. “Everyday” is common, banal. “Every day” means each day. Which do you mean? The Heritage Foundation needs not only grammarians, but true patriots. And historians.

      Where, oh where, is stare decisis so often spoken by Roberts in his approval hearing? Clearly, the Roberts court is a perfect activist court, continuing in the precedent set with the appointment of Bush as president (where, in the Constitution, pray tell, may I found this?). Can a corporation get an annual mammogram? I own shares in companies, but what right do they have to take my money to purchase propaganda that will result in harming me? Never in the history of our country (even in the Teapot Dome scandals) has fascism reared its ugly head . . . so unabashedly and arrogantly.

    79. Joe says:

      Why do lobbyists have uncontrolled and unlimited access to and power over the people we send to DC? Why do lobbyists write our laws? Why do we allow this situation to exist?

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    82. Terry, New Mexico says:

      The simple answer is for Congress to enact a law that states that any corporation or organization making any contribution to any elected official gives up any and all claims to federal money (or state money or local money). This includes tax incentives, government contracts, and any tax advantages. We should not be funding corporate political activities with tax dollars.

      Such a ban would include any tax incentives companies receive for having built plants in a community.

      If you want to speak out, pay for your speech with your own money, not mine.

    83. Pingback: CBS Overstates Citizens United Impact on Law | National Review Institute Blog

    84. carl lafoonb says:

      I am not a Constuational Lawyer but I thought the document ONLY talked about Indivual freedoms. Where did the Supreme court get the authority to change the Constituation?

      Calling a Corporation a person is just plane stupid. I don't know of any corporation who has any compassion to anything excety profit. They all say I am for that etc. but it alwasy has to do with profit.

      The Supreme Court has made a mockery of our election process. If any corporation can give any amount of funds to any canidate just like an indivual that is just plain stupid. That means that I as a citizen am equal to the largest corporations in the world when it comes to contributions. BOOOOO!

    85. Droopy Dogg says:

      Hmm, Cigarette companies hired some of the top psychologists in the world in order to convince people to smoke. They were shareholders and people. Are they Deathstar or Democracy. Maybe its not too late for them too recover by investing in politicians.

      In my opinion. Capititalism is fighting for survival in a world that is changing too fast. We will likely see alot of weird things happen in the next decade as the World becomes more entangled into one Union.

    86. Andy Miller says:

      This has as much to do with free speech and freedom as a cat's behind. This is not our constitution of a government for and by the people. But to believe this nonsense is constitutional one must redefine the words 'person' and 'speech'.

      No problemo, presto chango, a company is now a 'person' and cash is now 'speech'. Amazing! Can Texas now begin executing them? Can we marry them? What about rights for unborn corporations? Why on earth can't they vote? Do we need a new Civil Rights movement to protect disadvantaged corporations from loss of freedoms? We must protect our borders from foreign corporations! ay carumba!

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