On Citizens United

Protestors against Citizens United

Note: This is a topic explanation only. No analysis will be provided.

In 2008, Super PAC “Citizens United” was banned from airing an advertisement targeting Hillary Clinton under the McCain-Feingold Act, which prohibited corporations and unions from mentioning any candidate in advertisements immediately before elections.

Citizens United sued the Federal Election Committee, and the case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court. The Court ruled 5-4 that corporations and unions could donate unlimited amounts of “soft money” (political contributions accounted as going to a political party, not a specific candidate), effectively overturning McCain-Feingold in the name of promoting the free speech of corporations and allowing them to compete with media outlets that “freely disseminate their opinions about candidates using corporate treasury funds.”

The case was immediately controversial, and remains controversial today. Election spending skyrocketed, with the 2012 election seeing more than double the capital as 2008’s. Critics ofCitizens United include President Obama, who remarked that the case, “gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington — while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates.” Indeed, many accuse Citizens United of undermining the average American voter in favor of corporate interests, with candidates forced to court wealthy voters and election results depending not on who has the best ideas, but the best donor base.

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