Corporate Accountability

What groups are telling the Supreme Court about campaign finance laws in the ‘Hillary’ case


A brief look at what different groups are telling the Supreme Court about the current campaign finance laws in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case to be argued Sept. 9.

Against the current campaign finance laws:

  • The law’s “reliance on the hypothetical response of a reasonable listener still leaves speakers guessing about what speech is lawful and what speech is not. That uncertainty invites arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement. It will also lead many speakers to self-censor rather than risk sanctions or undertake the expense of suing the FEC prior to speaking, especially since most suits will not be resolved until long after the speech is timely and relevant.” — American Civil Liberties Union.
  • “Speech by corporations — particularly nonprofit corporations funded by like-minded individuals of modest means — deserves a special place under the First Amendment. Consequently, independent expenditures by such groups should be categorically exempt from limitation.” –National Rifle Association.
  • The court “should recognize no compelling governmental interest in criminalizing independent union electoral speech.” — AFL-CIO.
  • “The electoral advocacy of the chamber — a not-for-profit corporation — and of millions of its corporate members has been suppressed. This has occurred even though 96 percent of chamber members are businesses with fewer than 100 employees, far from the immense aggregations of wealth hypothesized in (the) Austin (case). Suppression has been imposed even when candidates have directly attacked business interests and when corporations have unique and valuable insight into the likely consequences of electing or defeating particular candidates.” — U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
  • “The original, laudable intent of Congress presumably was to limit speech by corporations that seek to promote their own interests by influencing elections, while continuing to allow all other commentary (either non-corporate entities or by the news media) on political issues. But by crafting campaign finance reform legislation with such attention to corporate form in a world in which so much public communication is conducted through such means, far too much speech is either barred, chilled, or subject to government approval through regulation by the FEC.” — The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

For the current campaign finance laws:


  • “Should the court overturn those precedents, it would displace long-standing legislation (both at the federal level and in those states that have chosen to impose similar restraints) and judicial precedent, and usher in a new era of corporate spending as a dominant force in politics. As members of Congress, we believe this would engender great popular frustration and cynicism about our political process.” –Reps. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.; David Price, D-N.C.; Michael Castle, R-Del.; and John Lewis, D-Ga.
  • “Only now, through the interaction of the law and new technologies, have small individual givers grown in importance, closer than ever before to matching the aggregate, but modestly constrained, giving power and associated influence of corporations and other institutional actors. A rough balance in the operation of the law, just recently established, would not survive the sudden revision of the rules to the great and instant advantage of the for-profit corporate community. The predictable outcome would be a heightened risk of corruption — both corruption in fact and corruption in appearance.” –Democratic National Committee.
  • “To change course and create a new constitutional right for corporations to make unlimited expenditures in candidate elections would reverse our centuries-long march of progress toward greater democracy and run contrary to constitutional text and history.” –League of Women Voters and the Constitutional Accountability Center.
  • “The constraints that drive a corporation’s political speech — the requirement that corporate actions all must be calibrated toward profit — directly undermine the notion that a corporation can be a free participant in the marketplace of ideas. And precisely because a corporation enjoys significant state-created economic advantages designed for the narrow purpose of furthering wealth-accumulation, corporate participation in candidate campaigns promotes market entrenchment and corrupts the political marketplace in a fundamentally undemocratic manner.” — American Independent Business Alliance.
  • “(The) Austin and McConnell (cases and their antecedents) are vital cornerstones of modern campaign finance regulation and have engendered much reliance. Overruling them would severely jolt our political system by suddenly overturning not only federal statutes that have stood for decades, but also laws of many states. The foundations of Austin and McConnell have not been undermined by precedential development, and their holdings have not proved unworkable.” — Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz. and Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and former Reps. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., and Martin Meehan, D-Mass.


© 2009 The Associated Press.

This story can be found in its original form here.

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