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  • The Truth About President Obama and Citizens United

    I have to admit that if I had been sitting in the House chamber during President Obama’s State of the Union address, I would have had to fight the urge to have a Joe Wilson moment when the President unjustly criticized the Supreme Court, six of whose members were there. Why? Because the two claims President Obama made about the Court’s decision last week in the Citizens United case are categorically and undeniably false.

    President Obama claimed that the Supreme Court had “reversed a century of law to open the floodgates – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections.” Justice Alito seemed to shake his head and mouth the words “not true.” And well he should. The fact is that the Court overturned a federal ban on independent political expenditures by corporations and unions, and in so doing, it rejected the proposition that the government can decide who gets to speak and can ban some from speaking at all.

    First of all, the 100-year claim is completely wrong. In 1907, Congress passed the Tillman Act that banned direct contributions by corporations to federal candidates – there was no ban on independent political expenditures in the law. “Contributions” are funds given directly to candidates for their election campaigns; independent expenditures are funds spent by third parties on things like political advertisements without any coordination with the candidate.

    The Tillman Act was sponsored by South Carolina Senator Ben “Pitchfork” Tillman, probably the most vicious racist to ever serve in Congress. Tillman was a Democratic segregationist who was chiefly responsible for the imposition of Jim Crow in South Carolina after the end of Reconstruction when he was governor. This federal law, that so-called “progressives” like the President are constantly praising, was intended by Tillman to hurt the Republican Party – the party of abolition and Abraham Lincoln – because many corporations contributed to the Republican Party, not the Democratic Party. These corporations did not like segregation in the South – it cost them money and made it more expensive to sell their goods and services.

    Congress did not ban independent political expenditures by corporations and labor unions until 1947. For three decades after the passage of that law, the Supreme Court went out of its way to avoid upholding its constitutionality, and the Court actually struck down a separate ban on independent expenditures as well as a state law prohibiting corporate expenditures on referenda. It was not until 1990 in the Austin case that the Court, in a 5-4 decision, upheld a state ban on independent political expenditures by a nonprofit corporation (a trade association) in a case completely at odds with prior precedent. The actual electioneering communications provision at issue in the Citizens United case was part of the McCain-Feingold amendments to federal campaign finance law in 2002.

    So the point is that the law the President claims has been in place for 100 years has been on the books since 1947, and the Supreme Court only issued a very odd decision twenty years ago upholding such a corporate ban in conflict with stare decisis (Quite tellingly, the government refused to defend the 1990 decision on the basis of its actual reasoning when it argued the Citizens United case). As Justice Kennedy said, “[n]o case before Austin had held that Congress could prohibit independent expenditures for political speech based on the speaker’s corporate identity.” While the Supreme Court in Citizens United found that the corporate ban on independent political expenditures is unconstitutional, it did not touch the ban on direct contributions to federal candidates. That is the ban that represents “a century of law” and it remains in force today contrary to the President’s assertion.

    The President’s second point about those evil foreign corporations is also totally wrong. 2 U.S.C. § 441e bans all foreign nationals from directly or indirectly contributing to a federal candidate or a political party. It also bans all foreign nationals from making any independent political expenditures – and this ban was not overturned by the Supreme Court. The term “foreign nationals” is defined to include individuals, foreign governments, foreign political parties, and corporations “organized under the laws or having its principal place of business in a foreign country.” It is simply not true that Citizens United freed foreign corporations to make independent expenditures in American elections.

    Congress itself put an exemption into the law. If you are not a U.S. citizen but are lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the U.S., this ban does not apply to you. The Federal Election Commission has interpreted this provision with regard to corporations to mean that only U.S. domestic subsidiaries of foreign corporations can establish political action committees, and only if those PAC’s donations and disbursements derive entirely from funds generated by the U.S. operations of the subsidiary and all decisions concerning the donations and disbursements are made by U.S. citizens or permanent residents. I was actually on the FEC as a commissioner when we considered an advisory opinion request from a Canadian company over its U.S. domestic subsidiary, and this was the rule followed by the FEC to implement federal law. Under current law, there are multiple layers of protection to prevent foreign influence on our elections.

    This makes perfect sense. Foreign corporations are prohibited from participating in American elections. But their domestic subsidiaries that are American companies, employ American workers, have American officers, and pay American taxes, are able to participate in the American election process to the same extent as other U.S. companies as long as all of the money and all of the decisions are American.

    The Citizens United decision did not even consider this ban on foreign nationals. So the President was completely out-of-line when he made the claim that foreign corporations would be able to spend without limit in our elections, a claim that seems to have become a talking point for critics of the Supreme Court’s decision.

    The President should know better than to make these false claims. After all, he taught a voting rights class at the University of Chicago that loosely covered campaign finance law, and his new White House counsel is Bob Bauer, probably the leading Democratic campaign finance lawyer in Washington. Bauer even wrote one of the only books that exists explaining the nuts and bolts of federal campaign finance law.

    The President owes Justice Alito and the other justices of the Supreme Court an apology for completely mischaracterizing their opinion, an opinion that helped restore the full protections of the First Amendment. It was a decision that upheld some of our most basic principles, principles about the freedom to engage in political speech that are incorporated into the Constitution, a document that the critics of this decision seem all to willing to ignore when its requirements don’t fit their political objectives.

    Posted in Legal [slideshow_deploy]

    62 Responses to The Truth About President Obama and Citizens United

    1. Bradley, UT says:

      President Obama showed unprecedented unprofessionalism when he criticized the Supreme Court. It was inaccurate, immature, and I wholeheartedly agree that President Obama owes them an apology. Even though he personally disagrees with the decision, he should have been more professional about it. In politics, you win some and you lose some. President Obama is no exception to this. He should know this by now.

    2. Paullette, Wisconsin says:

      Having Joe Wilson moments has cautioned me to not drag myself through the ubiquitous "blah blahs" of this speech maker. Speeches are the be all and end all; this is a virtue which has become a vice — an end in itself — gives the country something to do the day after. It might be better to walk away and put energies into saving ourselves — making jobs — creating caring health systems, and locking out the Dem. money eating machine.

      And the "need to apologize to the Supreme Court" that did it's duty by protecting constitutional rights threatened by unconstitutional legislation will find it's way onto the web an into the history books! — the tin ears of the Dems. — we'd need another Mass. miracle for that.

    3. Brent Knight says:

      My understanding is that it is illegal for political leaders to accept money or gifts from foreign countries or organizations. This protects us, the people, from foreign influence. President Obama received the nobel peace prize, even though that money will be distributed to other organizations that money can still influence the president and others in the way of political favors. Am I Right or do I misunderstand?

    4. Tom Anderson Philade says:

      Just another attempt by Obama to set up straw-men and class warfare, but he fails to realize that truth equals power and each time he utters an untruth, he loses power

    5. Robert Lewis Staecke says:

      You are quite right he does owe an appology, not just to the Supreme Court but to the American people. Now another statement of his was totaly unconstitioal and bypasses the congress. First all presidentail orders are unconstitional, now the quote. "Yesterday, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created this commission. So I will issue an executive order that will allow us to go forward, because I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans."

    6. Chris, VA says:

      It is important to note that public reaction to this has been overall critical. Republicans stand to benefit greatly from this court decision.

      “I do not think the dead hand of the past should be allowed to stay the onward march of progress. Human rights are sacred but constitutions are not.”

    7. Robert Lewis Staecke says:

      You are right the president does owe the Supreme Court and apology he also owes the American People an apology too. I feel that all presidential orders are unconstitutional only the congress can pass bills. In his State of the Union Address the president bypassed the congress and the constitution with this quote. "The Commission will have to provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline. Yesterday, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created this commission. So I will issue an executive order that will allow us to go forward, because I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans." This needs to be challenged in a Court of Law.

    8. Cindy, Hobe Sound, F says:

      Thank you Mr. Von Spakovsky

      This was the worst part of an angry speech . . . when things like this happen, we always look at each other and say, "Why?" "Why do that" "Why say that?" There seems to be a slip of the lips or a purpose to everything this president says and does. So, this lie was planned in the speech. . . "Why?"

      With great appreciation,

      Cindy & Kevin

    9. Don Harper, Lubbock, says:

      As much as it pains me to look at what the mainstream media have to say, I guess I will have pay some attention to see if any of them offer an honest analysis of this SC decision. Hans Von Spakovsky has presented a very understandable explanation. Thank you. It needs wide-spread distribution.

    10. Dave Buehler, Kona, says:

      I would really like to know if a final report was ever submitted by the Obama election campaign providing details on the source of all donations via the Internet – surely they cannot all be from the US.

    11. Lloyd Scallan - New says:

      "The Truth" Since when has Obama spoken the truth? Certainly not in the SOTU

      speech on Wednesday night, during the past year, nor during the campaign.This guy is a serial lier and does so to fulfill his socialist agenda. When he made the statement to Dianne Sawyer about being a great "one term president", he basically admitted he does not expect to be re-elected, so he's "doubling down" on all of his projects to destory this nation. If he is not stopped NOW, it very well may be too late in PERHAPS 3 more years.

    12. sofiagonzelez, Texas says:

      "Freedom of Speech"- where have we heard that? Oh yes, the United States Constitution! The same one Mr. Obama took an oath when he was elected by "We the People"? "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, PRESERVE, PROTECT and DEFEND the Constitution of the United States." Doesn't say ONLY when it fits my fancy, my political agenda or agrees with my radical ideology.

    13. JoeS says:

      In response to Chris, VA regarding his "dead hand" comment. The written Constitution was the agreement (unlike England's verbal) and there are provisions and processes for changing the document as written. An act of self-serving politicians in McCain-Feingold attempting to insulate themselves from political speech by silencing people was not the proper way. This decision came about because the FEC tried to ban a pro-Hillary documentary during the election cycle and the FEC admitted the proscriptions of the law could apply to books. It was bad, unconstitutional law. Always err on the side of freedom.

    14. John Burton, Suisun says:

      Do not expect Obama to acknowledge, apologize, or correct any "errors" of fact that furthers his agenda. He is, after all, a professor of law whose publications and records are to obscure to be found. And don't expect him to show any embarrassment, he's above such pettiness. We may take comfort in remembering that, "he is not one of us."

    15. Kate Gordon says:

      Thank you for explaining in simple terms what actually took place and why Judge Alito couldn't contain himself. This administration has done more damage with their blatant lies than I've ever seen in over 60 years. I sincerely hope when Obama is out of office in 3 years, we'll still be able to recoop the mess he's created.

    16. Lynne Welke-Vista, C says:

      The Obama campaign accepted lots of money from foreigners. I have begun to research this, and The Heritage Foundation wants to audit the campaign books.

      From Freedom Eden: http://www.freedomeden.blogspot.com/2008/08/monir… $33,500 from Palestinians in Hamas-controlled Gaza

      From: http://biggovernment.com/2010/01/25/call-for-an-a… : "The FEC alleges that Obama also illegally took donations from Tamil Tiger leaders. The Tamil Tigers are, according to the FBI, the most successful terrorist group in the world."

      The Obama campaign received a substantial amount of money from countries that have an interest in seeing a weak American President: $366,708.22 from China; $25,259.00 from the United Arab Emirates; $7,062.60 from Russia; and $6,716.28 from Saudi Arabia. Obama also took in $6,350.00 from Indonesia; $5,000.00 from Kenya; and $1,750.00 from Egypt.

      Obama's books must be audited. His campaign was crooked and furthermore, he now owes favors. I am sure that the favors he will give, or has given, have nothing to do with the safety and economic health of the American People!

      Come on Heritage. Audit the books.

    17. Karen, CO says:

      This is a great article. Thanks for the clarification! Kudos to the Supreme Court (at least part of the Supreme Court)! They took a very courageous stand for freedom and have received considerable backlash for it. Shame on our president for his lies and misrepresentation. Mr. Emanuel summed up the liberal stance when he said "Freedom of speech is overrated". Thankfully there are those that don't agree.

    18. Dan Shawhan, Palm Ba says:

      The current president of the United States of America,his cabinent and his majority legislators are so far out of touch with what is truely American,not only with the contents and parameters of our sacred Constitution ( yes, it is sacred as it is what gave the people of the USA the tool(s) to bring this nation to it's standard in the relatively few generations that we as Americans have existed) but what being an American is all about; Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. They are doing everything in their power to rob the American people of what our Founders put their Honor and Lives on the line to create. They have left the "firm reliance on the proctection of divine Provedence" to something along the lines of being openly homosexual in our armed forces. It just does not compute!

      It is because of the Constitution that we are learning the lesson of how importantit is to keep it as unchanged as possible. Through the election of such an unamerican president we now have that feeling of loss of that which we have taken for granted for so long.

    19. Ignatz deFyre says:

      Your logic doesn't hold water.

      In the opening, you state that the President is incorrect in saying a century of law has been reversed. Then you instantly contradict yourself citing the 1907 Act. 2010 minus 1907 = 103.

      Obama did not make the distinction between direct and indirect expenditure – you did. Without yor distinction, it's a century. With, it's half a century. Does it matter? What's your point, to prove someone "wrong" just for a snicker?

      Your second argument: there are plenty of corporations that are "nominally" USA based but whose policies are made abroad. Are you going to monitor this stuff? We'll need a Department of Corporate Homeland Assessment & Security Evaluation. CHASE (your own tail, maybe)

      Sorry Bud, you may "moderate" my comments away since they don't suppoprt your ill-informed arguments, but that doesn't change the fact that, between you and me, you're talking out of your A_ _ and misleading the good people who have the misfortune to read here.

      An article by a much more trusted source of information is here: http://blog.nj.com/njv_guest_blog/2010/01/in_citi


    20. Ignatz deFyre says:

      22 USC 611 – Sec. 611. Definitions

      (d) The term "agent of a foreign principal" does not include any news or press service or association organized under the laws of the United States…

      How long do you think before this loophole is exploited? The Al Qaeda Daily Morning Rag Inc. will soon be electing your Congressman.

    21. Gary Noerenberg, Mar says:

      First, Senator Schumer owes the Court an apology also.

      When will the main stream media start challenging the President on these matters. If they don't, those who only get their news through that source will never be aware of the mischaracterizations that are being presented by this President. Only then will the President and his staff start being honnest with the American people.

    22. Spiritof76, NH says:

      It doesn't matter what the Presdient thinks about the Supreme Court decision. In our Constitution, the three branches are equal. Andrew Jackson was famously quoted as saying, "Let him enforce it" in refernce to a ruling that was made by the Supreme Court Chief Justice, John Marshall. He did not utter those words in the State of the Union message, however.

      Obama is a socialist that believes in supremacy of his position. It is our (We The People) job to set him straight. We must make him irrelevant in 2010.

    23. Douglas Dauntless says:

      V.P. Joe Biden has been taking money from Iran for over twenty years

    24. anonymous, CA says:

      Ignatz deFyre, do you have some sort of reading comprehension problem? Your argument apparently is "There was a law passed more than a hundred years ago, therefore the court overturned a century of precedent". The point made by the article is that the law passed a century ago and the law overturned by the court are different laws. What, exactly, about that were you unable to follow?

    25. Jill, California says:

      I find it odd that Obama criticized the Supreme Court when it's only a matter of time before he himself takes advantage of the Court's decision, raking in unimaginable wealth to fill his next campaign coffers.

    26. Normca says:

      This is the game Obama plays. Durbin was waiting for the speech to say it and was sitting directly behind Justice Alito. The comment on Friday by the judiciary committee chairman represents not the lack of knowledge; they have staff that reads through the decisions and so they can identify what Heritage did in this very direct article. Obama subverts the law all of the time; he knows what it is. [Obama also knows what he id doing to the economy.] They will continue to berate the Supreme Court all year and then after they lose the mid term elections, they can do another Bush vs Gore, complaining the Supreme Court decided the election. Liberals cannot win if the playing field is level – corporations can donate like the unions. The court protected free speech, however this bunch doesn't like their advantage being removed. The Supreme Court is the only branch they do- not dominate.

    27. Roberto, Florida says:

      This is his strategy: appealing to populist anger against corporations that is not grounded in fact. It is not President Obama's place to so publicly dispute a Supreme Court decision. The part that gets to me the most was when he prefaced his opinion with the statement "with all due deference to the separation of powers." It makes it seem like the separation of powers, instead of defending the American people against tyrannical government, acts as an inconvenience to him.

    28. Larry, Missouri says:

      He will never applogize. That would go against his agenda to continue the deception toward the American people. I feel sorry for him. He can't see the National forest through the trees.

    29. Drew Page, IL says:

      Incredible. Mr. Obama is more worried about the impact of having foreign political contributions coming into this country than he is of having foreign terrorists coming into this country.

      McCain/Fiengold prohibited non-profit organizations like the National Rifle Association from buying ads on TV or in the press within months of a Presidential or congressional elections to support pro-Second Amendment candidates seeking public office. Those incumbent politicians who were in support of more gun control, including registration and confiscation, were free to state their positions in the media without such restrictions.

      I am a Life member of the NRA and am proud of it. I support the Second amendment and the right of every American who is neither mentally defective, nor a convicted felon, nor who is under a court order prohibiting such ownership to own a gun for any legitimate purpose be that hunting, target shooting, self defense or merely collecting. I have never been charged with, or even been suspected of, a crime. I have never pointed a weapon of any kind, loaded or unloaded, at any person at any time, and hope to God that I never have to.

      I can respect the opinions of those who don't want to own a gun of any kind, for any reason. What I can't understand is why anyone would want to give up one of their Constitutional Rights. For safety or security? Would they be willing to give up their First Amendment Rights to feel more secure? Would they be willing to give up their other Constitutional rights to feel more secure? Maybe if we allowed the police to kick down our doors in the middle of the night, drag us off to prison and deny us legal representation that might reduce the crime in the streets. After all, why would anyone who did nothing wrong have anything to fear from this? I'm not sure who first said it, but I believe as did the original author that those who give up their rights for security, deserve neither.

      I for one know exactly how Mr. Obama and his liberal Democrat friends feel about the Second Amendment. HIs criticism of the Supreme court, lifting the ban on groups like NRA from supporting their condidates of choice up to the point of election is no surprise.

    30. Jon, Radcliff, KY says:

      What I find most eggregious, letting the legalese fall to the wayside for the moment, is the totally disparate treatment being allowed by the Congress.

      During the Joint session speech by the President, Congressman Joe Wilson shouted "You Lie", and true or not, this comment was totally inappropriate for the venue. Appropriately Congressman Wilson was admonished for his spur of the moment outburst.

      Yet, the President goes into the State of the Union Address, and conducts what amounts to a "bully pulpit" premeditated "ambush" of the members of the Supreme Court. And the Congress, as well as many non governmental supporters of the of the President, actually Cheer his statement.

      I am not a legal expert, but I do know right from wrong, and this action by President Obama was not only wrong, but an embarassment to the nation and its legal framework.

    31. William Halverson - says:

      You claim that "This federal law, that so-called “progressives” like the President are constantly praising, was intended by Tillman to hurt the Republican Party – the party of abolition and Abraham Lincoln – because many corporations contributed to the Republican Party, not the Democratic Party. These corporations did not like segregation in the South – it cost them money and made it more expensive to sell their goods and services."

      Please explain or cite why you think segregation 'made it more expensive to sell their goods and services" in the Jim Crow south.

    32. William Halverson - says:

      Perhaps someone can explain to me why we let anything that cannot vote give money in the first place? The argument that 'they have interests to protect' can also be used to let them sit on trials, since they also have an interest to put criminals in jail.

      Bear in mind the only reason corporations exist in the first place is to create a mechanism to limit the liability of the investor to the size of his investment. "Freedom of speech" is an inalienable natural right we as humans possess at our birth. Giving corporations 'rights' is arbitrary and would astound and perplex the people who wrote the Bill of Rights.

      I see no reason why corporations, unions, or any other 'organization' should be allowed to give a dime directly or indirectly to a campaign or to support issue ads.

      We have to cut through the noise on this point and overhaul our pre-election education process entirely. The existing system is almost as dis-functional as our health care system: no one would deliberately, purposefully design what we have now.

    33. Clarence De Barrows says:

      Remember one important fact in these discussions. It is easy to miss the point and be misled by irrelevant details and red herring issues which are focused on by many in our Country today – they are a diversion. Obama and his Progressive cohorts in both the Democrat and Republican Parties will do anything to advance their leftist agenda. They all, Reid, Pelosi, Clinton, Obama and many in the Republican party consider themselves expendable, akin to runners in a relay race. They push forward as fast and as hard as they can until, exhausted and out of favor with the electorate, then they pass the Progressive baton on to their replacement. They may disappear from the public scene, but make no mistake, they're still around, assigned supporting roles while being "taken care" of by the powers that be in their group. They're no longer in the public eye, but still active in the background, at their assigned positions, doing the work which will advance the agenda of the Progressive Party. These Progressives are the only true threat to the Constitution we face at the moment.

    34. Mark, San Antonio, T says:

      To Ignatz deFyre:

      The legal rule in the 1907 statute—a ban on direct contributions by corporations to candidates—was not affected by the Citizens United ruling. Since (1) this century-plus rule was not overturned, (2) there is no other century-plus precedent (whether statute or case law) that the President could have referred to, and (3) the rule that the Court did overturn—a ban on independent corporate expenditures—is demonstrably less than a century old, the President's "century of law" assertion simply cannot be true.

    35. Mark, San Antonio, Texas says:

      There is nothing preventing a challenge to 2 U.S.C. § 441e under Citizens United. And I wonder how much tolerance the majority of the Court would have for differential treatment of speakers within the category of corporate political speech. This, I perceive, would be the threshold issue facing the supporters of 441e. The anti-distortion rationale appears virtually useless after Citizens United: the majority seemed clear that “distortion,” if indeed a concern, is worth risking, and why would it change its mind solely because the source is a foreign as opposed to a domestic corporation? The anti-corruption rationale, though far from being rendered useless under Citizens United, perhaps has been reined in closer to a commonsense or fundamental understanding of “corruption.” True it is that foreign corporations have the indirect route to political speech via the American subsidiary exception mentioned by Mr. Von Spakovsky. And the exception on its face appears to me very sensibly constructed to require a “doing business in America” nexus. But what if a foreign corporation without such nexus argues that, under Citizens United, the only nexus ought to be the attempt to engage in corporate political speech in an American election? The exception in that light arguably is just a series of substantial burdens upon corporate political speech.

    36. Pingback: Shopfloor » Blog Archive » Reacting to Citizens United by Restricting Speech

    37. Ignatz De Fyre says:

      To Mark, San Antonio

      Well argued, and correct. You sound a great deal more rational than many of the posters here, and I appreciate that. I think some hyperbole was written into Obama's speech (Republican gremlin?). Poor speech-writing; in any case it HAS been over a century since legislation to this effect has existed, if that had been meant as the original point.

      BTW, I'm under no illusion that the POTUS writes his own material either, or has the time to fact-check every item of information. Arguing over the verbiage of speeches is a fruitless exercise. The President today is an actor in the theatre of American politics. The latitude of "the most powerful" man on the planet is woefully meager. I would urge voters not to get distracted by the "face" of the government and pay more attention to the "hindquarters" where the real decision-making is done. After all, the law is an ass, no?

    38. Ignatz De Fyre says:

      While everyone dickers over verbiage, I might point out that lawmakers are wasting their time and ours lawyering around about how much free speech a corporation should have.

      Aren't we forgetting that a corporation exists to make money, and the speech it requires for that purpose is commercial speech? The individuals comprising the corporation already enjoy freedom of speech individually, which should be quite adequate for democratic expression.

    39. Pingback: The ‘Shareholder Rights’ Canard — By: NRO Staff - www.hostzi.com - deepWeb

    40. Arnold Wong says:

      The presdent is a conceited narcist. I am disappointed in his inability to admit he is wrong and his lies are disgraceful. I have never disliked a president except for Obama.

    41. Mark H, San Antonio, says:


      There can be no denying that your concerns over corporate speech go to the central problem of politics: who shall rule? You are correct that corporations are vehicles for the profit motive. And, yes, on average, corporations will seek to advance their economic interests through their political speech. I would surmise from observation that the same is basically true, on average, of most participants in the political process. That is to say, self-interest is a stubborn fact of the human condition. The institutional arrangements of the Constitution were designed to harness self-interest rather than attempt to sublimate or eradicate it through the sundry devices promulgated by regimes of bygone eras. I am not always at ease with the Framers' design. Yet, it appears to me more compatible with the natural equality of persons than any other system yet devised by humankind.

      In a word, our institutional arrangements do not ordain a resolution to the central problem of politics, but they do ordain and thereby impose upon us an obligation that our processes for mediating this problem shall be according to certain forms. These forms cannot be given a concise definition, but in the opening words of the First Amendment—"Congress shall pass no law"—we are alerted to the fact that government officials are tempted by an inherent and irreconcilable conflict of interest in regulating political speech. It follows that the First Amendment ought to be construed broadly as it touches upon political speech, for it is through political speech that we police those who govern us with our consent. How can consent be effectual if it cannot be informed to the fullest practicable extent?

      I would ask, therefore: as a rule of constitutional law what cognizance should be taken of the speaker in determining whether political speech is to be protected? Race? Religion? Political affiliation? I think it is settled under wise precedents that no cognizance is to be taken of these factors. Then why take cognizance of the quantum of money presumably at the speaker's disposal? Because a greater quantum of money guarantees "too much speech" or "bad speech"? Is this necessarily true? Are speech and truth inversely related? Can anyone be trusted to make this and similar determinations with the force of law? Or why take cognizance of the fact the speaker is an association of individuals in corporate form? If you and a friend form The Rational Company, Inc., why is your corporation to be silenced from speaking in the political process?

    42. Zoonib says:

      Obama's comments were about as accurate as they could be. The big influence in modern elections is capital and which candidate has the most money.

      In the best scenerio every American has one vote and can contribute a fixed maximum amout of money. This drives Polititans to serve the people.

      By giving Corporations rights to give money, now the richest citizens control the vote and Polititans will continue to serve big business.

      This was the worst decision by Supreme Court in my lifetime.

    43. Zoonib says:

      It seems like modern day Republicans are a case of Girls Gone Wild. Decisions are not made base on what's right or wrong or even based on ethics or values. They are based on what is in the best interest of the Republican party in the present moment.

      The fact that modern corporation just sunk our Nation and have undue power at the Political level, doen't seem to stop Republicans in the Supreme court from giving coorporations even more power.

    44. Zoonib says:

      Quote from Mark H, San Antonio, Texas

      " If you and a friend form The Rational Company, Inc., why is your corporation to be silenced from speaking in the political process?"

      Answer because you have only 1 vote finacial and physical per person. False companies appear all the time with false agendas. This allows 3rd platform for anonymity and deception.

      Mark lets see if I can clear this up for you. I am a Saudi Prince I decide through different corporations to funnel money to Bush jr. I do this for years as it is no longer illegal. Bush depends on this money. Now let say the US gets attacked by a radical Muslim and I call up and say hey my good friend George, Can we let the relatives of this man leave the country without being interogated as would any relative of a murder.

      What do you think the answer would be. Money talks and polititans listen.

    45. Sherry Burleson says:

      I agree that obama needs to apologize to the justices. He thinks he can say anything and get away with it. Chances are he won't (apologize) as he has an agenda that doesn't include honesty or doing what is right for our country.

    46. Sherry Burleson says:

      To Zoonib.

      obviously you don't keep up with who the Saudis are supporting. The King was bowed to by your president. He is a muslim and he is working for them in this country. You need to read what is agenda is. It is not what he said on the campaign trail.

    47. Sherry Burleson says:

      Why do people think rich will benefit Republicans. The Democrats have some of the richest people behind their liberal agentda. Some that we don'tknow about. Why did obama not take federal mone?? So no one would know where he got all his money.

    48. bigdave, ocala fl says:

      Idiot "zoonib", it really is a zoo to which you belong, and you probably belong to some organization which takes care of you, you can not be a productive member of society. You are a parasite. What is the difference between a Union Organization and a Corporation? You are most assuredly too dumb to know the real answer. If a Union can contribute millions to democrat/socialists, which they always do, Corps can do the same…maybe even to the real AMERICANS in the REPUBLICAN PARTY, the only party which gives a damn about our constitution!

    49. H. J. Lowery says:

      In my opinion neither corporations nor unions and other organizations are persons in the Constitutional sense. These entities may not be declared citizens, which would give them the right to vote.

      Also, in my opinion, only Americans eligibe to vote should be able to contribute to campaigns or candidates either directly or indirectly.

      These limitations should be placed on contributions of any kind to political issues, candidates or agendas:

      1. Only registered voters can contribute for those purposes.

      2. A registered voter must be eligible to vote for the office in contention for which such contribution is made.

      3. Any statement made by or on behalf of a candidate, issue or agenda must be completely true or the maker would be subject to Federal felony charges.

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    51. Jake, Arizona says:

      Remember, Obama was put into power for such a time as this! He is doing what he is told by men with more power than he. I find it interesting how he is so bold in all that he says and does. He knows who is backing him up and giving him the power.It is not we the people any longer! This problem is beyond party lines.

    52. Adam Denver says:

      I am amazed how all of these comments express such hatred for the President while many of the commenters obviously have little understanding of the Citizens case or the ruling, or even bother to consider the issue. Ideological flaming has displaced efforts to make positive changes in government. How about some constructive criticism or suggestions of alternatives? Most of you appear to be ill-informed, but you do not seem to care about the actual problems or solutions; you are merely focused on lashing out with your ignorant rhetoric.

    53. Adam Denver says:

      See bigdave's comments above. Thanks for proving my point, bigdave.

    54. Maryscott O'Con says:

      I found the Citizens United decision disturbing in the extreme — but I must admit that the section on the media was very persuasive, rational and cogent. And, let's face it, the only thing this really did was bring corporate money into the open when it comes to political campaigns. Anyone who thinks they haven't been spending it hand over fist to get their people in there for the past century and a half (or longer) is a naive fool.

      However, Stevens's dissent was far MORE rational and persuasive. If Elena Kagan is Obama's choice to replace him, I weep for the future of jurisprudence — and the Constitution as we've known it — for the next century or more.

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    60. Supreme Courts are supposed to uphold constitution, but tension rises when justices rewrite laws that congress was elected to write. Legislating from the bench this is called. One of the worst cases in history is a case called Citizens United. One hundred years of law was overturned that limited corporate money in politics. They gave the right of corporations to spend as much as they like on political campaigns.
      They justified this by saying “ limiting money in politics is the same as limiting free speech”.
      Debates will no longer be a fair fights. Congressmen are owned by Corporations now, if they don't do what they want it will be their last term in office and they know it. Obama's not stupid, he knows they want him gone and I see numerous loopholes for foreign corporations to exploit.

    61. Al Sargent says:

      True, it is illegal for foreign nationals and foreign companies to donate to US election campaigns. But with a lack of transparency into who's donating, there's no way to enforce this law. It's naive to think that foreigners won't leverage the Citizen's United decision to undermine our elections.

      So, Obama's correct — the Citizen's United decision does, in practice if not in law, open to floodgates to allow foreign nationals and foreign corporations to spend without limit in our elections.

    62. Al Sargent says:

      True, it is illegal for foreign nationals and foreign companies to donate to US election campaigns. But with a lack of transparency into who's donating, there's no way to enforce this law. It's naive to think that foreigners won't leverage the Citizen's United decision to undermine our elections.

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