Posted: October 17th, 2013
Opposing the Citizens United Case Ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court
The Citizens United case ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States was a landmark decision concluding that the first amendment prevented the government from restricting union and corporation political expenditure. Citizens United, a not for profit organization had a view of airing a film on Hillary Clinton as well as advertising it in television broadcast. Apparently, this is contrary to what is provided in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in 2002, or otherwise referred to as McCain-Feingold Act. The Supreme Court decided that this action was a first amendment violation. However, the Supreme Court failed to put into consideration certain matters, and so I stand against this ruling.
The Citizens United vs. the Federal Elections Commission was a court case revolving around violation of Section 203 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act by Citizens United. This corporation had intended to air a political documentary on Hillary Clinton in early 2008, who at the time was a potential elections candidate. This move as described by laid down precedents and laws is illegal and was subject to prohibition (Raskin, 49). The District Court for the Columbian District in the United States ruled that Citizens United had violated the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act on electioneering communications, and thus ruled that Citizens United was guilty of this violation.
Section 203 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act defines electioneering communication as a satellite communication or broadcast cable that mentions an individual of elective interest within sixty days of the scheduled election, and goes on to prohibit expenditures from unions and corporations (Kairys, 32). The Supreme Court however overruled the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act provisions that prohibited unions and corporations -both profit and non profits- from electioneering communications. In this case, the reality of the matter is that Citizens United Corporation intended to engage in electioneering communication acts, and therefore this Act applied prohibited the action.
In a previous similar case on Federal Elections Commission vs. McConnell, the court came to the ruling that provision on electioneering communication would stand, and was declared from the holding on Austin vs. Michigan Chamber of Commerce; this provided that political speech is to be banned in relation to the individual’s corporate identity. Thus, the Supreme Court was not justified on any ground to reverse the previous decision by the lower court, and it was contrary to the First Amendment’s purpose and meaning (Patton, 74). The Supreme Court decided not to waive its decision in relation to Austin vs. Michigan when it stipulated to reverse the previous decision.
Even if such a decision was to be waived, the Supreme Court should have reconsidered the ruling in Austin vs. Michigan and its facial validity through out the litigation. In this case, Citizens United claimed that the Federal Elections Commission acted in a manner that violated its right to free speech and the parties could therefore not enter in a stipulation preventing the court from officiating necessary remedies to resolve a preserved claim. Because the arguments by Citizens United are not sustainable, the court had an obligation of exercising judicial responsibility through facial validity. This fact is further supported by the uncertainty emanating from court’s litigating stand, and the action of electioneering communications is contrary to the election process integrity (Wiist, 45).
The regulatory scheme on this issue also gives opposition on a strict sense. However, given the difference courts normally exhibit in administrative actions as well as its complexity, a party wishing to negate any instigated liability in crime against the Federal Elections Commission is supposed to seek prior permission from a governmental authority. These restrictions thus are equivalent to power restraint thus granting the Federal Elections Commission analogous powers, similar to those stipulated in the First Amendment aimed at prohibiting such actions. The ongoing argument on speech right violation does not necessitate the invocation of earlier set precedents, especially where there is a demonstration on their facial invalidity.
Another reason to go against the Supreme Court decision is the overruling on Austin vs. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, and thus does not provide any basis for the court to restrict any independent expenditure from a given corporation. Therefore, it would be correct to conclude that the court’s restriction on such expenditure is not valid and thus cannot apply to Hillary Clinton. From this school of thought, further support from the McConnell vs. Federal Elections Commission where the ruling upheld restriction extensions on expenditures from independent corporations (Kairys, 64). Additionally, the first amendment asserts that the Congress shall be in position to make any laws that abridge speech freedom. Because speech is an essential democratic mechanism, it is also considered a means of holding parties accountable.
Therefore, any law promoting this form of speech can be declared bull and void. Citizens United intended to make such speech on the Hillary Clinton film, and the Supreme Court in its actions promoted such speech. Thus, the ruling can be declared null and void. This argument provides sufficient foundation for opposing the Supreme Court ruling on the United Citizens vs. the Federal Elections Commissions case (Raskin, 89). On the premise of mistrusted court ruling, the First Amendment stands against any disfavoring attempts on certain viewpoints or subjects for any given speaker, which may also qualify if the speech is in the form of media content. The First Amendment also provides that a court may be wrong constitutionally when it identifies by law certain speakers. There is no foundation for argument that the government may impose on freedom of speech restrictions on particular speakers. Both logic and history are in support of this finding.
Additionally, the Supreme Court decided not to recognize that the nature of the First Amendment applied to corporations, be it profit oriented or not. For example, the case of the First National Bank vs. Bellotti in the United States can also be used as reference to oppose the Supreme Court ruling. This case addressed the challenges met with the 1971 Federal Election Campaign Act, where the court upheld direct contribution limits to corporations by recognizing government interest, in preventing unwarranted speech (Goldstone, 45). Additionally, the court invalidated the ban of expenditure applying to corporations, individuals, and unions. Notwithstanding this precedent, the Congress afterwards remodeled the union and corporation expenditure ban, and thus was constitutional to apply on both unions and corporations. The Supreme Court in this case was confronted with of conflicting precedents lines, and did not choose to act independently.
The government through the Federal Elections Commission had an asserted interest of protecting its shareholders from being subjected to corporate speech. Similar to the anti distortion rationale, this would allow the government to media corporations from engaging in political speech. This statute is in support of my argument as it looks to protect dissenting shareholders from media speech, but at prescribed period of thirty days prior to the scheduled election (Wiist, 56). This statute further supports my opposition of the ruling because it is inclusive of all corporations. Therefore, it would be correct to conclude that the Supreme Court acted contrary to the government’s statute and interest and its decision can be declared revocable.
Other relevant arguments I found in support of my opposing the decision lay behind the courts lack of decision to adhere to the stare decisis, or the let the decision stand principle. The decision prompted concern over the precedent antiquity; and whether there was sufficient reasoning before making the decision. The Supreme Court decided not to offer any valid explanations as to why it abandoned the ruling made in the Austin vs. Michigan Chamber of Commerce case. The ruling in this case was undermined by the Supreme Court. There is no sufficient interest by the court justifying its decision to overrule a previous laid down precedent.
The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in 2002 has a provision that prohibits unions and corporations from using their funds to broadcast any advertisement on a potential election candidate within a period of thirty days prior to the election. On this perspective, a non-profit corporation Citizens United attempted to air a political documentary on Hillary Clinton in early 2008, who at the time was a potential elections candidate. This move as described by laid down precedents and laws is illegal and was subject to prohibition (Raskin, 49). The District Court for the Columbian District in the United States ruled that Citizens United had violated the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act on electioneering communications.
June 2009 saw the Supreme Court issue a directive to reargue the case and saw it fit to overrule the case Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and decided to reverse the previous decision by the lower court. However, the court did not consider the government’s federal ban on union or corporation direct contributions to political parties or to candidate campaigns, something the United States law considers illegal. Upon review of the Hillary Clinton film, it was established that it had a view of crediting Hillary’s candidature for presidency (Raskin, 103). Therefore, this film can be declared to contravene the United States law on two fronts: the first with a nature of electioneering elections, and the second contributing to a candidates campaigns. Therefore, it was correct that the ruling by the District court found it illegal.
The Supreme Court however sought to reverse the decision for reasons it knows known to. In accordance with my research on the matter, I have dully found the Supreme Court incorrect with its judgment on the United Citizens previous ruling. In my opinion, these findings should prompt another hearing where the proceedings should be undertaken with utmost diligence and competence.
Goldstone, Lawrence. Inherently Unequal: The Betrayal of Equal Rights by the Supreme Court, 1965-2011. New York: Walker & Company, 2011. Print.
Kairys, David. With Liberty and Justice for Some: A Critique of the Conservative Supreme Court. New York: New Press, 2010. Print.
Patton, Dana. “The Supreme Court and Morality Policy Adoption in the American States.” Political Research Quarterly. 60.3 (2007): 468-488. Print.
Raskin, Jamin B. Overruling Democracy: The Supreme Court Vs. the American People. New York: Routledge, 2003. Print.
Wiist, WH. “Citizens United, Public Health, and Democracy: the Supreme Court Ruling, Its Implications, and Proposed Action.” American Journal of Public Health. 101.7 (2011): 1172-9. Print.
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