The Supreme Court has issued its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and it has come down on the side of the First Amendment.
The case arises from a Citizens United documentary which portrayed Hillary Clinton in a very negative light. The FEC barred Citizens United from airing television commercials promoting the documentary within thirty days of the presidential primaries – a provision of McCain-Feingold.
By a 5-4 vote, the court on Thursday overturned a 20-year-old ruling that said corporations can be prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to pay for their own campaign ads. The decision, which almost certainly will also allow labor unions to participate more freely in campaigns, threatens similar limits imposed by 24 states.
It leaves in place a prohibition on direct contributions to candidates from corporations and unions.
Critics of the stricter limits have argued that they amount to an unconstitutional restraint of free speech, and the court majority apparently agreed.
“The censorship we now confront is vast in its reach,” Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his majority opinion, joined by his four more conservative colleagues.
However, Justice John Paul Stevens, dissenting from the main holding, said, “The court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation.”
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor joined Stevens’ dissent, parts of which he read aloud in the courtroom.
The justices also struck down part of the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill that barred union- and corporate-paid issue ads in the closing days of election campaigns.
The Wise Latina ruled against free speech in her first high-profile decision as a Supreme Court Justice. How utterly predictable.