Gearing up for Citizens United v. FEC

In advance of the Citizens United v. FEC reargument tomorrow morning, it might be illuminating to examine common arguments by those on the “reform” side in the case. This post is a response to Frank Askin’s piece at NJ Voices. Askin is a Professor of Law and Director of the Constitutional Litigation Clinic at Rutgers Law School. It’s cross-posted at PublicSquare.net’s blogging heads page.

Askin’s piece addresses three alleged shortcomings in the free speech side of Citizens United v. FEC, specifically as defended by noted First Amendment litigator Floyd Abrams on the Bill Moyers Journal Friday.

Askin’s issues are (1) the longstanding ban on corporate political donations, (2) the distinction between member-based union speech and shareholder corporate speech, and (3) the constitutional distinction of “We the People” not bestowing First Amendment rights on corporations.

Center for Competitive Politics Chairman Brad Smith addressed these specific issues at length at a Cato Institute policy debate today with American University law professor and Maryland state Sen. Jamin Raskin. The video is available here and is embedded at the end of this post.

click here to read more

Filed Under: Blog

CCP at Bloggerheads debating Citizens United


CCP Communications Director Jeff Patch will be debating the Citizens United case on Bloggerheads, where he will be exchanging blog posts with Lionel Artum-Ginsberg, an attorney. The debate will go on for the next 24 hours, so please check back at Bloggerheads from time to time for new posts.

 

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Hysteria and hyperbole no substitute for facts in Citizens United

Continuing campaign finance “reformers” pattern of dramatically misunderstanding what is at stake in Citizens United, E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post yesterday unleashed a hysterical and factually-challenged column in advance of tomorrow’s crucial re-argument in front of the Supreme Court.

Early on, Dionne claims that “The court is considering eviscerating laws that have been on the books since 1907 and 1947 — in two separate cases — banning direct contributions and spending by corporations in federal election campaigns.”

The problem, of course, is that the Supreme Court is not “…considering eviscerating laws that… [ban] direct contributions… by corporations…” Only independent political speech by corporations (and unions) at stake in Citizens United. Claiming otherwise is to show that one has not bothered to let facts get in the way of a good hysterical rant.

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Meet Buckley

Buckley

“Show me a magazine cover with a … dog, and I’ll show you a magazine that sells.” — William Randolph Hearst.

We figure that applies to the web, too. So Meet Buckley, Official Mascot of the Center for Competitive Politics. CCP Chairman Brad Smith says his Bernese Mountain Dog, Buckley, is a good mascot for CCP because, “He’s like a good political campaign — unruly, fun, and hard to understand. You can’t get him to stop talking.  And like his namesake opinion, he’s going to be big and erratic.”

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Citizens United and the crocodile tears for shareholder rights

Citizens United v. FEC is ultimately a pretty simple issue, and it’s pretty clear, when you cut through it all, that there are two camps: one camp wants more speech, and one camp wants to suppress speech. That latter camp is a tough sell. Thus the search for new reasons for speech suppression. One they’ve been trying to make a go of is shareholder rights. That has required some serious contortions by the regulatory lobby, but ultimately it, too, is a non-starter.

Filed Under: Blog, Corporate Governance, Corporate Governance Press Release/In the News/Blog, External Relations Sub-Pages

Moyers to devote show to Citizens United Friday

PBS host Bill Moyers will devote the full hour of Friday’s Journal to examining Citizens United v. FEC.

He’ll have Trevor Potter and Floyd Abrams as guests.

From the PBS rundown:

Next week, the Supreme Court reconvenes early for a special hearing on the constitutionality of campaign finance limits for corporations and unions. To hear the arguments, Bill Moyers sits down with Trevor Potter, president and general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center and a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, and Floyd Abrams, a partner and member of the executive committee at Cahill, Gordon and Reindel. Potter has defended McCain-Feingold in the lower and Supreme Courts, and served as general counsel to Senator John McCain’s presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2008. Abrams is a liberal litigator who has defended the First Amendment in several high profile cases, and contends that corporations and unions have the same right to free speech as individuals.

To find out what station the program will appear on in your area, click here.

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Public Citizen: protest in favor of censoring critics

Public Citizen has posted this silly video on YouTube today.

The video, urging people to protest on Sept. 9 — the day SCOTUS will rehear Citizens United v. FEC, is part of Public Citizen’s “Don’t Get Rolled” campaign.

The video makes explicit what we’ve said before: many “reform” groups want to silence corporate speech so their critics can’t speak out and disagree with them on other issues they lobby on.

“[Corporations] would be able to influence the issues that we care about,” says an announcer in the video. “Issues they often see as roadblocks to profit. So, the progress we’ve made on all of these issues, it would be rolled back — steamrolled. Something none of us wants.”

Presumably, Public Citizen doesn’t mind union influence, or realize that if SCOTUS overrules Austin v. Michican Chamber of Commerce or McConnell v. FEC that unions — not just corporations — would be able to speak out on candidates in federal elections.

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CCP’s Citizens United op-ed in the New York Post

Center for Competitive Politics Chairman Brad Smith wrote this op-ed for the New York Post today: “BANNING BOOKS? High-stakes campaign-law case.”

An excerpt:

If political speech can be banned merely because it is produced or distributed by a corporation or with some corporate funding, then (as the government now argues) books, movies, newspapers, TV and radio could be prohibited from any political speech or programming. Surely this is anathema to the First Amendment.

As currently interpreted by the Supreme Court, the First Amendment provides greater protection for flag burning, nude dancing, simulated child pornography and tobacco ads than for core political speech.

The Citizens United case provides an opportunity for the court to return to first principles and declare that the words of the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law . . .” apply to all Americans, not just those whose speech is favored by politician.

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Citizens United v. FEC

Citizens United is a conservative non-profit organization that produced a documentary movie highly critical of then-candidate Hillary Clinton. The group wanted to distribute the move via video-on-demand technology, and run ads promoting the movie. The FEC ruled that they could not, under the electioneering communications sections of McCain-Feingold, air commercials promoting the movie or distribute the movie via video-on-demand technology. Citizens United appealed, and in June 2009 the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would re-hear oral arguments in the case specifically on the issue of whether they should overturn Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, a 1990 decision permitting bans on independent expenditures in campaigns by corporations and unions. Oral arguments were held on September 9, 2009.

 

On January 21, 2010 in an unusual special session, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Citizens United. It is a transformative which restores the First Amendment rights of businesses, unions and nonprofit advocacy groups to participate in campaigns.

It’s an extraordinary win for free political speech rights by speakers of all stripes.

Filed Under: Media Resources

IJ petitions for SCOTUS review of Colo. campaign finance case

The Institute for Justice asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a Colorado campaign finance law that silinces nonprofit policy organizations, preventing them from speaking out on political issues.

From the release:

“Colorado is regulating commentary on public issues, extending campaign finance regulations far beyond what Supreme Court precedents have allowed, and it is now up to the High Court to rein in this and similar state laws,” said Bill Maurer, an Institute for Justice attorney and lead counsel on the petition. “Americans should not have to register with the government to engage in public debates about the direction of their state. If the First Amendment means anything, it means the government cannot require people to get the government’s okay before they can speak.”

The case is Independence Institute v. Buescher.

IJ’s press release is here and their cert petition is here.

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