Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission | US government and civics | Khan Academy | Summary and Q&A

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May 7, 2018
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Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission | US government and civics | Khan Academy

TL;DR

In the Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the court ruled that political spending by corporations, associations, and labor unions is protected under the First Amendment as free speech, sparking debates about the influence of corporations in elections.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What was the main issue in the Citizens United case?

The main issue was whether corporations have a First Amendment right to spend money independently to support or oppose candidates for federal office.

Q: Did the Citizens United case address whether corporations are considered persons?

No, the case did not address the question of whether corporations are considered persons under the law. It focused on the First Amendment rights of corporations to engage in political spending.

Q: How did the McCain-Feingold Act lead to the Citizens United decision?

The McCain-Feingold Act attempted to restrict corporations and unions from mentioning a candidate in broadcast ads within a certain time frame before an election. Citizens United challenged this restriction, leading to the Supreme Court's decision.

Q: What was the rationale behind the Supreme Court's ruling in favor of Citizens United?

The Supreme Court ruled that restricting political spending by corporations would infringe on their First Amendment rights to free speech. The court emphasized that the identity of the speaker does not matter in First Amendment cases.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The case revolved around the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, or the McCain-Feingold Act of 2002, which aimed to regulate campaign financing by corporations and unions.

  • Citizens United, an ideological nonprofit corporation, produced a documentary critical of Hillary Clinton and wanted it to be available as a video on demand through Comcast Cable.

  • The Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote, overturned the campaign financing restrictions, stating that corporations have a First Amendment right to engage in political expenditures independently.

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