Citizens United Case

Topics: Supreme Court of the United States, First Amendment to the United States Constitution, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Pages: 4 (1447 words) Published: November 25, 2013

The case Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission was argued before the Supreme Court on March 24, 2009. Citizens United produced a political documentary that discussed whether Hillary Clinton would be a good president, however, the FEC stated that this was violating the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA). Although the film could have been shown in theaters, sold on DVDs, downloaded from the internet, and distributed in the form of a book, the producers could have faced five years in jail if they offered the documentary on Videos on Demand. Attorney Theodore Olsen, who argued on behalf of Citizens United, claimed that the FEC was violating Citizens United’s First Amendment rights by limiting the films distribution. One key argument made by Olsen is that the BCRA did not intend to prohibit this type of film. Olsen claimed that the film was indistinguishable from news media; however, Justice Souter cited numerous examples of the documentary bashing then Senator Clinton and suggested that the film was more like campaign advocacy. This is an important distinction—does it make a difference if the film advocated political issues or was merely campaign advocacy? Both parties (mostly) agreed that the government could regulate this “Vote for Smith” campaign advocacy, and that practical application should be used in determining campaign advocacy. According to Olsen, the film in question did not qualify as campaign advocacy, and that campaign advocacy and public issues are not mutually exclusive events. Educating the public about an issue may imply that a certain political figure is best (or worst) equipped to deal with that issue. When asked by Breyer why the film is any different from 30 second commercials intended to influence elections, Olsen replied that the hour and a half documentary is only supposed to educate the public. Conversely, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg thought that because the film appears on a channel called “Election 2008”, it targets...
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