Just in time for November’s congressional elections, the Supreme Court today handed down a 5-4 ruling (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [PDF]) that decrees that the Government may not restrict corporations from spending as much money as they want to influence political campaigns, particularly with the production and airing of ads. The decision reversed about two decades of restrictions on what unions and corporations could spend on elections.
The case was originally argued to determine whether an anti-Hillary Clinton feature film — produced by conservative group Citizens United — constituted political advertising. But the grounds of the case were eventually expanded to a number of campaign finance precedents. Said Justice John Paul Stevens in his sharp minority opinion, “Essentially, five justices were unhappy with the limited nature of the case before us, so they changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law.”
Most telling to us, Cleta Mitchell, a conservative election lawyer, said the justices had “ripped the duct tape off the mouths of the American people, to allow them to exercise their First Amendment rights to support and oppose candidates, to criticize elected officials and candidates at any time, without the need to ask the government.”
But last time we checked, corporations are not people, and unlimited money is not free speech. Perhaps she meant that corporations are just organizations of people? But the Constitution was not designed to entitle corporations to First Amendment protections. (And though Citizens United is a nonprofit corporation, they received direct corporate funding for the movie they produced.)