Citizens United v. FEC

Liberals Frothing at the Mouth over McCutcheon Ruling

“Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.” — William F. Buckley Jr.

For the second time in four years, liberals all over America are once again in the throes of apoplectic rage at the Supreme Court over a decision expanding free speech rights.

On January 21, 2010, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that the First Amendment protections of free speech prohibit the government from restricting political donations by corporations (and labor unions, but you never hear the left complaining about that).

This ruling became a rallying cry for the left, who decry the corrupting influence of money on our political process. Eight days after the decision, Barack Obama stood before the assembled members of the House and Senate, as well as the justices of the Supreme Court, and railed against the immorality and danger of the decision.

Quoth Emperor Barack, “With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that, I believe, will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections…I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests or, worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps correct some of these problems.”

SCOTUS Agrees to Hear McCutcheon v. FEC: Free Speech Update

James Earle Fraser's statue The Authority of Law, which sits on the west side of the United States Supreme Court building, on the south side of the main entrance stairs.

Our friends at Outside the Beltway clipped a Washington Post story that sets up a new look at decades-old campaign finance law by the nation’s high court, just three years after their landmark decision in Citizens United v. FEC. Washington’s paper of record reports:

The Supreme Court reentered the controversial field of campaign finance Tuesday, agreeing to consider a Republican challenge to decades-old limits on the total amount a person can contribute to candidates, political parties and political action committees.

It is the court’s first major campaign finance case since its 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed unlimited corporate and union spending in elections. By extension, the decision led to the creation of super PACs, whose multimillion-dollar donations transformed funding of the 2012 presidential contest.

Reflections on the 2012 Cycle

Excerpted from “How I Voted — 2012 Edition” at The Dangerous Servant.


Obama won a large Electoral College victory, but he did not receive a mandate for his agenda

People more eloquent than I am (who probably had more coffee today than I did) have already made this point. I thought this tweet from left-of-center blogger Cory Doctorow summed things up pretty nicely:

When it’s a struggle for your most vocal supporters to root for you, that’s not a good sign about how effective you’ve been as a leader. To read more on how exactly Chicago pulled off this election, see thisTIME piece. That kind of attention to detail made the Obama reelection effort more nimble and better prepared to adapt to changing conditions on the ground, and it’s really no surprise (from an operative’s perspective) that they won.

Another Benefit from Citizens United: Political Letters from Companies to Employees

FEC logo

Last Friday, former FEC commissioner and chairman of the Alexandria, Virginia-based Center for Competitive Politics Brad Smith published an editorial in the Wall Street Journal on Koch Industries*** sending its employees letters about the upcoming presidential and congressional elections, and left-wing hysteria over those letters. Smith does a great job demonstrating why these types of corporate communications are good for employees:

A report released this week by the Business Industry Political Action Committee (Bipac) found that employees ranked their employer’s website as the most credible source of political information on the Internet, more than media sites or parties and candidates. Over 75% of the more than 500 respondents from a variety of industries indicated that employer-provided information was useful in deciding how to vote, and over a quarter said it made them more likely to vote.

This comes on top of past Bipac research showing that 47% of employees said that employer-provided information had “somewhat” or “strongly” increased their awareness of how various policy proposals affected their employers.

It should come as no surprise that employees want to know how government policies will affect their employers, and by extension their jobs. One might even argue that business leaders have an obligation to share with employees credible, accurate information on how public policies might affect the company.

The Principled Politics of the AFL-CIO: An Open Letter to Richard Trumka

Dear Sir:

Compare your statement of January 21, 2010 (emphasis mine):


Today, the Supreme Court further tilted the playing field in favor of business corporations in public elections.  By allowing unlimited corporate treasury expenditures that explicitly support or oppose particular candidates, the Court has increased the already excessive influence that corporations exert in our electoral system.  And we believe the Court wrongly treated corporate expenditures the same as union expenditures, contrary to the arguments we made in our brief in this case.  Unions, unlike businesses, are democratically-controlled, nonprofit membership organizations representing working men and women across the country, and their independent speech should accordingly be given greater protection.

The AFL-CIO supports a system of campaign finance regulation that promotes democratic participation in elections by individuals and their associations; protects legitimate independent speech rights; offers public financing to candidates while firmly regulating contributions to them; and guarantees effective disclosure of who is paying for what.


with this story in POLITICO today, August 22, 2011 (emphasis mine):


The AFL-CIO is getting ready to pump even more money into elections by forming a super PAC and targeting developments in the states, the Associated Press reported Monday.

Oh, in case you forgot, House Democrats really hate the First Amendment

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Democrats will introduce a constitutional amendment today designed overturn recent Supreme Court decisions by repealing political speech protections in the First Amendment:

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will introduce the House’s version of legislation that would overturn decisions like Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC — court cases that helped create modern-day super PACs and stripped rules limiting aggregate limits on donations.

The amendment would give Congress and the states the power to regulate campaign financing, fundraising and spending, including money spent by independent expenditures.

The proposed constitutional amendment sounds a little different from the one proposed by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and backed by most Democratic senators. The original text of the upper chamber’s version, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, would give Congress the power to regulate political speech.

The intended effect of both amendments, however, is to undermine political speech. Because, in Orwellian American, gutting a civil liberty protected by the Bill of Rights is what passes for an election year issue. Or something.

Nancy Pelosi still living in Obamacare Imaginationland

Nancy Pelosi

Ex- Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says that Democrats lost their House majority in 2010, not because voter outrage over the passage of Obamacare, but rather because of the Supreme Court’s decision in the landmark free speech case, Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission.

Pelosi made the comments during an interview with MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki, who asked the now-House minority leader whether she thought that Democrats could have still passed Obamacare and kept control of the chamber in the 2010 mid-term election.

“When you look back, though, at passage of this four years ago, and then your party suffered what President Obama called the ‘shellacking’ in the mid-terms, historic losses and you’ve been in the minority here since then,” said Kornacki, “do you look back at the passage of that and say, if we had done ‘X’ differently, we could have kept the House?”

“No,” Pelosi replied.

“Is there a way to pass that and keep the House?” the host prodded. Pelosi cut off Kornacki, saying “no,” repeatedly, and launched into a tirade about Citizens United, insisting that Democrats lost the chamber because of outside groups.

“First of all, I don’t subscribe to the notion that we lost because of the Affordable Care Act,” Pelosi told Kornacki. ”So you’ve gone all the way down a path that I didn’t come down with you.”

“We lost the election because, in February, earlier in the year, the Supreme Court sent down the decision of Citizens United,” she said. “And that meant unlimited, unidentified special interest money could flood the elections.”

Senate Democrats want to dismantle the First Amendment

Senate Democrats plan to hold a vote on a constitutional amendment proposed by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) that would effectively rewrite the First Amendment to give Congress the ability to regulate political speech:

The Senate will vote on an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) that would overturn two recent court cases that have given corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals free rein to spend freely on federal races.

“The Supreme Court is trying to take this country back to the days of the robber barons, allowing dark money to flood our elections. That needs to stop, and it needs to stop now,” said Senate Rules Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who announced the plan.

“The only way to undo the damage the court has done is to pass Senator Udall’s amendment to the Constitution, and Senate Democrats are going to try to do that,” he said.

Schumer said the vote would take place by year’s end and called on Republican colleagues to join Democrats to ensure “the wealthy can’t drown out middle-class voices in our Democracy.”

Eyeroll. It’s gimmick, part of the populist message on which Senate Democrats are desperately trying to run as they face a tough mid-term election. It also serves to rally the party’s leftist base, which, apparently, only likes free speech when they’re the ones talking.

Citizens United readies for legal challenge to IRS rules

Citizens United, the conservative organization that challenged and won a legal battle against onerous, free speech infringing campaign finance regulations at the Supreme Court, is preparing for another fight, this time over the Internal Revenue Service’s proposed guidance for tax-exempt groups:

The conservative nonprofit advocacy group Citizens United plans to sue the IRS over the agency’s stringent new regulations on 501(c)(4) nonprofit groups.

“I can commit with certitude that Citizens United will not sit by while any government agency tries to violate our 1st Amendment rights,” Citizens United president David Bossie told the Center for Public Integrity. “We have a proven track record of winning, and we’re not afraid to take the fight to them. You’ll see a Citizens United v. IRS.”

Bossie said that it is “too early” to get into the details of his legal strategy, but that his group plans to “pull out all the stops.”

Supreme Court takes another look at campaign finance

The Supreme Court waded back into the murky waters of campaign finance regulations on Tuesday by hearing arguments in McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission, a case dealing with the aggregate limit in place on the amount of dollars a person can give in a single election cycle.

As the law is currently written, an individual can give up to $48,600 to candidates (one could max out to 17 candidates) and another $74,600 to political action committees (PACs) and/or political parties in each election cycle. But Shaun McCutcheon, a businessman from Alabama, is challenging this cap on political giving, noting that it’s a violation of his free speech rights, as campaign donations are a form a speech in the United States.

Supporters of campaign finance reform are calling the case “Citizens United II,” after the landmark case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), which overturned much of a 2002 law limiting political speech. President Barack Obama said yesterday that the Citizens United has “contributed to some of the problems we’re having in Washington right now,” tying the case to the government shutdown and debate ceiling debates.

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