Supreme Court Lifts Limits On Corporate, Union Campaign Spending
January 22, 2010 at 11:32 AM (PT)
In a case that could have implications for political advertising spending on radio, the SUPREME COURT ruled TODAY (1/21) that federal campaign laws cannot constitutionally restrict corporations' or unions' ability to spend money on political campaigns. The case also changes the laws restricting what can be in a campaign ad paid for by corporations on behalf of a candidate, and when they can run; the laws had denied corporate-financed ads the ability to explicitly endorse one candidate over another or directly denigrate a candidate, and had barred union- and corporate-financed issue ads in the final stages of a campaign.
The 5-4 decision overturns limits on corporate campaign spending, with Justice ANTHONY KENNEDY writing in the majority opinion, "The appearance of influence or access will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy ... Our nation's speech dynamic is changing, and informative voices should not have to circumvent onerous restrictions to exercise their First Amendment rights. The censorship we now confront is vast in its reach."
Justices ALITO, ROBERTS, SCALIA, and THOMAS joined KENNEDY in the majority, with STEVENS, who wrote a dissent criticizing the majority for its "rejection of the common sense of the American people," joined by Justices SOTOMAYOR, GINSBURG and BREYER. The case was brought by CITIZENS UNITED, a group which attempted to air ads to promote the showing on cable video on demand of a documentary critical of HILLARY CLINTON but were thwarted by the FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION, which claimed that the group could only use money from limited amounts of contributions from disclosed individuals for the ads and the broadcast.
"The CITIZENS UNITED decision is a strong affirmation of the First Amendment rights of media corporations," WOMBLE CARLYLE Communications Attorney GREGG SKALL said. "We are pleased that the Court recognized and protected the broadcast industry’s vital role in the dissemination of political information to the public."