Share your story and event with Lauderdale Native!

Money Talks: How Citizens United Turned Elections into Corporate Blockbusters

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) Supreme Court case: 

The Citizens United v. FEC case in 2010 was a landmark Supreme Court decision that revolutionized campaign finance regulations in the United States. The ruling essentially allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on political advertising, arguing that such spending constitutes "free speech" under the First Amendment. This decision has had profound implications on elections, opening the floodgates for corporate influence in politics and sparking ongoing debates about the role of money in democracy. 

Key aspects of the Citizens United case include:

1. Background:

Citizens United, a nonprofit organization, produced a documentary critical of Hillary Clinton, then a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. The FEC determined that the documentary constituted an electioneering communication under the McCain-Feingold Act, which limited corporate and union funding for broadcasts and cable communications mentioning a candidate within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election.

2. Supreme Court Decision:

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the restrictions on independent expenditures by corporations and unions violated the First Amendment's protection of free speech. The majority opinion, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, held that political spending by corporations, associations, and labor unions is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment.

3. Impact:

The Citizens United decision opened the door for corporations, unions, and other organizations to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns, as long as these expenditures are made independently of candidates' campaigns. This led to the rise of Super PACs (Political Action Committees) that can raise and spend unlimited sums of money to advocate for or against political candidates.

4. Controversy:

Critics argue that the Citizens United decision has amplified the influence of wealthy donors and corporations in American politics, potentially drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens. Proponents, however, argue that it upholds the principles of free speech and allows for robust political debate.

Overall, Citizens United v. FEC remains a highly debated and consequential decision in the realm of campaign finance and political influence in the United States.

How did the Supreme Court justices' vote?

These votes resulted in a 5-4 decision in favor of Citizens United, significantly impacting campaign finance laws in the United States. In the landmark case of Citizens United v. FEC (2010), the Supreme Court justices' votes were as follows:

Majority (5-4 Decision):

  1. Justice Anthony Kennedy (wrote the majority opinion)
  2. Chief Justice John Roberts
  3. Justice Antonin Scalia
  4. Justice Clarence Thomas
  5. Justice Samuel Alito


"Dissenting" refers to the stance taken by judges or justices who disagree with the majority opinion in a court case. When a dissenting opinion is written, it outlines the disagreement with the majority's legal reasoning or conclusion. In the context of the Supreme Court of the United States, dissenting justices often write their own opinions to articulate why they believe the majority decision is incorrect or problematic. These dissents can provide alternative interpretations of the law and sometimes offer insights into different legal principles or implications.
  1. Justice John Paul Stevens (wrote the dissenting opinion)
  2. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  3. Justice Stephen Breyer
  4. Justice Sonia Sotomayor

How the FED protects the integrity of the campaign finance process:

These records detail contributions made by corporations and individuals to political candidates and committees. However, this information can change over time due to election cycles and legislative actions. For the most current and accurate data, consulting reputable sources like the Federal Election Commission (FEC) or non-partisan organizations that track campaign finance could provide insights into which politicians have received funding from these private prison companies.

The Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) Supreme Court case, decided in 2010, was a pivotal decision that significantly impacted campaign finance laws in the United States. The case revolved around the right of corporations and unions to spend money on political advertising, particularly around election time.



Share this post

Leave a comment