Talk:Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

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How come the phrase "corporations are people" is often uttered alongside discussions of this ruling? I don't agree with the ruling at all, but the issue is not whether corporations even have the same rights as people, but whether free speech applies to large-scale transactions of money and super-PAC actions. Mr. Anon (talk) 23:23, 15 June 2012 (UTC)

It's a silly debate. Are corporations "people"? Well, the word "person" has multiple meanings. In many senses of the word - the everyday sense, the philosophical sense, the scientific sense, the theological senses - no, corporations aren't people. In specialised legal terminology, yes they are. A lot of this seems to be a strawman, that because corporations are persons in the legal sense, somehow people are arguing they are people in those other senses, when no one in fact argues that. And since a corporation ultimately is reducible to its owners, directors and officers (all of whom are natural persons), giving corporations rights simply means giving those natural persons who control it rights (which of course they do), and permitting individuals to exercise their individual rights through corporate legal structures. (I'm not defending Citizens United though; I think it was decided wrongly.) (((Zack Martin))) 23:37, 15 June 2012 (UTC)
I'm not debating whether the phrase is accurate, just whether it has been appropriately applied to this case. What does this debate have to do with the case? Because the First Amendment does not mention "person" or "people" anywhere, it just says "freedom of speech shall not be restricted by Congress". Mr. Anon (talk) 23:42, 15 June 2012 (UTC)
I think the argument is "Corporations aren't people so corporations don't deserve free speech rights. In Citizen's United SCOTUS decided that corporations have free speech rights." It's not an accurate representation of the case (SCOTUS decided that corporations have free speech rights long before that), but it's an argument that gets made. Also, these opponents of corporate free speech forget that groups like the ACLU, Greenpeace, trade unions, charities, etc., are all corporations. (((Zack Martin))) 23:44, 15 June 2012 (UTC)
I agree with you there. Corporations do have free speech rights, but campaigns are a very special case, where "free speech" here can influence the direction of the country. Mr. Anon (talk) 23:47, 15 June 2012 (UTC)
I think there can be legitimate limitations put on free speech, and I think limiting the ability of wealthy individuals or corporations to spend money on election campaigns is a legitimate limitation. I also think we need to distinguish between commercial corporations (i.e. private businesses) and non-commercial corporations (e.g. environmental groups, trade unions, religious groups, etc.) The former, along with individuals, tend to be sources of money in their own right; the latter are generally conduits through which money flows from other individuals or corporations, and in the latter case we need to focus on where the money is coming from. If a private business spends $1 million on an election campaign, vs. a trade union spending $1 million dollars - the trade union is ultimately sourcing those funds from thousands of individual dues, and the due-payers know their dues will be used (in part) for political purposes; the private business doesn't source funds in that manner. (((Zack Martin))) 00:02, 16 June 2012 (UTC)
Zach, everything I can find in case law suggests this is the first time corporations are actively given the right to access "free speech" by definition. They have been identified as "persons" on a *limited* bases in the late 1800s, Santa Clara v. Southern pacific. But I'm finding no other citation till Citizens United that lays out their right to access free speech or the first amendment. Specifically, in fact, Courts have stated that Corporate Personhood does not imediatly give a corporation a right to access constitutional protections, except as specifically legislated or adjudicated (Buckley v. Valeo, 75). Doesn't mean I'm not missing something, of course.Green mowse.pngGodotFire! Fire! Fire! (please send spare firefighters) 22:33, 3 July 2012 (UTC)

Why is this a bad decisions[edit]

See subject. I hear a lot of people list this as one of the worst decisions out of the Roberts court to date. From a legal stand point what was wrong about it, what was bad about it. Tmtoulouse (talk) 21:56, 3 July 2012 (UTC)

The premise upon which it was argued, and which the court accepted, was that corporations and unions have legal standing as persons, in their claim to direct access of the First Amendment, which has, up until now, only applied to actual persons, and not government entities, businesses, unions or other organized groups of people speaking as the entity and not as individuals within a group. Specifically corporations, which have been regulated in various areas, to limit their influence on popular opinion- specifically elections. In doing so, they overturned precedent without clearly defined reasons for doing so (see Lawrence v. Texas Opinion on how and why Browers was deemed reversed). Right or wrong, US tradition and the precedent that has arisen out of it is that individual citizens should have fair and equal access to the political process and in their right to influence politicians. In that vein, more than a few laws have been upheld that seek to limit the influence of non person entities. Roberts Court which has stood by the idea of "minimalist involvement" (Scalia quote) and "holding strongly to precedent" just toss that out when it doesn't fit their political views. (And you have to admit the ruling and the language in the Opinion were very politicized). -- Or that's how I understand the ruling and the criticism, anyhow. (obviously, an argument can be made that "person" was never addressed in the 1st amendment. That's where tradition/precedent matters, I guess).Green mowse.pngGodotFire! Fire! Fire! (please send spare firefighters) 22:24, 3 July 2012 (UTC)
I guess to me the standard of a "compelling state interest" to limit free speech is not met. We are talking about directly limiting speech here, this is not about limiting the financial donations to a candidate, but rather limiting the ability of an individual (through a corporation or otherwise) from spending their money to say something about an issue or a candidate. Tmtoulouse (talk) 22:47, 3 July 2012 (UTC)
Whether I agree that it's not compelling state interest (and I don't, but that's not here or there) the real challenge is how do you go against the precident that it *is* in the State's interest to limit corporations. Again, they have limited access to 1st amendment as it is, per Buckley. To change that, to say "we can just ignore what the Court has ruled for the last 120 years" is the serious challenge that I don't think was met by the Majority. I don't think they give a compelling reason to over turn the 8 cases (at least that's what I found for my response above) that deal with corproate personhood and corporate right to influence an election. Green mowse.pngGodotFire! Fire! Fire! (please send spare firefighters) 23:29, 3 July 2012 (UTC)
I admit to not following up on the references, I suppose you have? The majority opinion cites more than a few examples of the first amendment being applied to corporations circa before Austin. But ultimately, fines/jail time are not given to "corporate entities" but rather to the people associated with that corporation. Which ultimately would mean that a person was being jailed for political speech. Tmtoulouse (talk) 23:49, 3 July 2012 (UTC)
Isn't that the very point, though? You cannot punish a corporation - so how can it have personhood rights? But again, you asked about the legal reasons, and most critics are of the "precedent" field, rather than the "corporations are not persons" field. Buckley, 76 would be the first place Corporations and First Amendment rights are explicit discussed. Limitations are suggested, but not enumerated. And I assume you've read Dartmuth the word jumble that got us into this mess. I say that only because there is a modern argument that the wording of Darthmuth was misunderstood. but that's a modern, liberal, corporations are not people claim. And no, I"ve not followed up on the citations for Cit U. I read their ruling on Western Tradition this spring, but have only read the majority on Cit U, and not really back tracked it. Cause legal issues aside, i was just furious with the tone of the piece and how little the court respected the voters. Green mowse.pngGodotFire! Fire! Fire! (please send spare firefighters) 00:08, 4 July 2012 (UTC)
"in their claim to direct access of the First Amendment, which has, up until now, only applied to actual persons, and not government entities, businesses, unions or other organized groups of people speaking as the entity and not as individuals within a group."

That's simply false. The decision cited 23 cases finding 1A rights for corporations. "To change that, to say "we can just ignore what the Court has ruled for the last 120 years" is the serious challenge that I don't think was met by the Majority. I don't think they give a compelling reason to over turn the 8 cases " What are they ignoring? What are those 8 cases?Fdof (talk) 22:29, 21 July 2012 (UTC)

Work with me here. In a completely naive way, as I read the first amendment, as an individual private citizen, I should be free to buy a printing press, operate it, and do as much printing of political ads whenever I want, and as much as I want. If I'm filthy rich, then so be it. The next step is to contract out the printing press, err tv ads, to a professional printing agency, err tv station. The next step is if I get a personal friend to voluntarily give me a bunch of money to help me print these ads. The next step is if I get my local community group together to all give me money to help me print these ads. Finally, because this community group is worried about theft or embezzlement, they want a contract to guarantee I'll spend the money according to the (less enforceable in practice) verbal contract. At this point, I fail to see any worthwhile distinction between my final hypothetical and attempting to curtail, outlaw, regulate, etc., corporations spending money on political ads. "It's giving corporations personhood" is a huge red herring and a mischaracterization of the entire debacle. It's whether or not people can form a contract to pool money to buy campaign ads. That it uses a pre-existing group of people in a pre-existing financial arrangement I think is immaterial. Put another way - please explain to me how you can regulate the buying of ads by corporations and how that ruling would not be applicable to me trying to get my friends to all donate money to me or some third party to buy ads? Having said all of this, I would probably be for some restrictions on political advertisements - which for the record is amazing for me as I am a free speech absolutist. Though, I haven't thought much about the exact phrasing of such restrictions. LiberalOfAnUnknownVariant (talk) 18:59, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

Oh, and it damn well better be a narrowly tailored constitutional amendment.LiberalOfAnUnknownVariant (talk) 20:39, 7 August 2012 (UTC)


The bit about Davenport v. Washington Education Association is irrelevant and false. Unless the "owner" of the private schools is a corporation, and its "slander" (wouldn't libel be more likely?) constitutes prohibited electioneering as defined by BCRA, its speech would be legal even without CU.Fdof (talk) 22:04, 21 July 2012 (UTC)

Fodf edits[edit]


Can anyone present a definition of "unprecedented" and explain how this decision qualifies?

Agreed, per discussion above, there seems to be established precedent cited in the ruling. Never did see a satisfactory response to this. Tmtoulouse (talk) 21:32, 31 July 2012 (UTC)


I didn't see how the alleged cite for "a clear majority of Americans oppose it" supported that claim.

Wow the wording on the cited poll is terrible, one poll does not a pattern make either. Seems like a push poll to me. Would agree that skepticism is warranted with the current link. Tmtoulouse (talk) 21:36, 31 July 2012 (UTC)


Why was my section discussing the misrepresentation of the ruling deleted?

With some alterations I added it back. Tmtoulouse (talk) 21:45, 31 July 2012 (UTC)
You're attacking a misrepresentation of the ruling by misrepresenting opponents of the ruling, Fdof. Blue (is useful) 21:59, 31 July 2012 (UTC)
You're engaging in a argument by assertion. This is a discussion page, not a make unsupported assertions page. Care to present an alleged misrepresentation, and a discussion of how it's a misrepresentation?Fdof (talk) 23:01, 31 July 2012 (UTC)

Gratuitous insult[edit]

Referring to the supporters of this as "wingnuts" is completely unjustified.


The term "electioneering" should be defined in the article. Fdof (talk) 21:44, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

Much ado about nothing[edit]

DC was bought and paid for long before Citizens United. CU basically just lets the crooks get away with in public what they used to have to be a bit more discreet about. If anything, CU might be a step forward in making it clear to the booboisie what a shell game politics is. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 22:08, 31 July 2012 (UTC)