One year ago today, on January 21, the Supreme Court released its landmark decision in Citizens United v. FEC. The decision corrected an anomaly in campaign finance law, and in doing so was a tremendous victory for the First Amendment and Americans who wish to participate in our political process.
The case found its origins in 2007 when my group, Citizens United, a membership organization, sought to promote, distribute, and broadcast via video-on-demand a film critical of then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. If Citizens United would have done so, we were told by the FEC that it would have been a willful violation of the provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 (better known as “McCain-Feingold”) which prohibited corporations from making independent expenditures and electioneering communications. This violation was not merely subject to a civil fine, but rather a criminal penalty – I personally would have been sent to jail for promoting the film. Citizens United filed a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission to defend our right to promote and broadcast the film. It took more than two years, but the First Amendment protection of political speech was restored by the Supreme Court in this landmark ruling.
In the year since Citizens United was decided, it has been the subject of countless unwarranted attacks and harsh rhetoric. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) claimed, “Citizens United was an incredible act of judicial activism. It turned back a century of federal law, and it nullified Minnesota’s twenty-year-old ban on corporate spending in elections.” Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA), in his farewell addressed, alleged that Citizens United “effectively undermin[ed] the basic democratic principle of the power of one person/one vote.” Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) argued that “if we don’t act quickly to confront this ruling, we will have let the Supreme Court predetermine the outcome of next November’s elections. It won’t be Republicans or Democrats; it will be Corporate America and other special interests.” All twisted the decision beyond recognition in an attempt to demonize the ruling and further their own political agenda.
In response to these crocodile tears, Citizens United released a short video today entitled David v. Goliath: The One Year Anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC. Featuring Speaker Newt Gingrich, Ed Gillespie, Ted Olson, and others, the short video highlights the impact of the case and the leveling of the political speech playing field in America. Please take a moment to view this video, and see how Citizens United forever changed the political landscape in American politics and restored our vital free speech rights.