No recent Supreme Court ruling have evoked more liberal fury than Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a campaign-finance case involving government censorship of a political documentary called Hillary: The Movie. The Federal Election Commission prevented the anti-Hillary Clinton film from being shown on television just before the 2008 Democratic primaries, a decision that was upheld by lower courts. Siding with The First Amendment, the Court struck down laws regulating independent political advertising by for-profit and non-profit corporations before an election even as they reaffirmed rules about disclosure and disclosures for ads and against direct corporate giving to candidates.
Critics fear that corporations will now overwhelm the political marketplace with commercials and advertisements that will program citizens to vote for whatever agenda "the corprations" want at a given moment.
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann railed against the decision, calling it "a Supreme Court-sanctioned murder of what little democracy is left in this democracy" and comparing it to the notorious Dred Scott decision, which ruled that blacks had no rights under the Constitution. His fellow corporate media host at MSNBC, Rachel Maddow, exclaimed, "If you are a regular person who has ever made a campaign donation before, forget about ever having to do that again. What's the point?"
Cyberlaw theorist Lawrence Lessig has called for a consitutional amendment to roll back the Citizens United ruling and President Barack Obama called out the Supreme Court during his 2010 State of the Union address, proclaiming to a standing ovation:
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.
Is there any truth to some hyperbolic, doomsday scenarios? In a word, no. The Citizens United ruling increases freedom of political speech, not simply for powerful, politically connected corporations like Citigroup, AIG, and the companies that run The New York Times and other media outlets, but for small-pocketed nonprofits such as Citizens United too. If you want to get bent out of shape about something, direct your ire at a massive and constantly growing government that has its hands in virtually every aspect of economic and social life in America.
"3 Reasons Not to Sweat The Citizens United Ruling" was written and produced by Meredith Bragg and Nick Gillespie, who also hosts.
For Reason.com's archive on the Citizens United case, go here.
Approximately 3.30 minutes. Go to Reason.tv for downloadable versions.
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