The Story of Citizens United v. FEC

The Story of Citizens United v. FEC

In season 1 of The Story of Stuff,
we looked at a system that creates way too much stuff, and
way too little of what we really want. Now we’re going to start looking at
the stories behind the Story of Stuff. That’s where we’ll find ways
to turn this situation around. Welcome to Season 2! “Bad for you, bad for America!”
“He’ll put us back on track.” “… ran our state into the ground, now he wants to
be your senator.” “Stand up! Say No!” “Stand up and say no!” “Bad for you, bad for
America!” “Vote for this guy!” “Vote for this guy!” Aren’t you tired of this stuff? Why is it that every election season, it becomes
impossible to hear the facts over all these misleading ads? And if it seems the problem is only getting
worse, that’s because it is. We can thank the Supreme Court for that. In 2010, they decided that
it’d be just fine for corporations to spend as much money as they
want telling us who to vote for. Wait, why are corporations telling us who to vote for? Let’s get something straight. This is a democracy,
you know rule by the people? I’m a person. You’re a person. And Chevron? Not a person. So shouldn’t elections be
all about what people want? Good Jobs. Safe products. Healthcare.
Responsible Government. Clean air and water. It turns out that the vast majority of Americans
want to see a lot more done on all of these things. But what people want will take a backseat
as long as corporations can spend millions getting lawmakers elected. Oil companies have gotten politicians to block
laws protecting our climate. Manufacturers have pushed through trade agreements
that gut product safety and help ship jobs overseas. Insurance companies have been the first ones
consulted on health reform and giant corporations have gotten bail-outs and subsidies. Maybe that’s why all kinds of people – Republicans,
Democrats, Independents — are totally frustrated with our government.
(Angry Crowd yelling) It’s easy to get angry. But it’s time we got smart and realized that the
heart of our problem is not that we have bad lawmakers. We have a democracy in crisis. 85% of Americans feel that corporations
have too much power in our democracy and people have too little. 85 percent! Hey, that’s a majority. So let’s get together
and take our democracy back from corporations. It’s the first and most important step in
making real progress on all the issues people care most about. So how did “we the people” lose control
of our democracy to begin with? Let’s go back a few centuries. Back then there were just people. Some of them owned businesses.
Some of them worked for businesses. Still, there were just people. Then people invented
something entirely new — the corporation. These legal entities exist independently
of the people who own them. If a corporation does something that gets it into
trouble, the owners can say, don’t blame me, blame the corporation. I’m just a shareholder! When the United States came into existence, corporations were easier to keep in check. Back then, the government would grant them charters for
a specific short-term project, like building a bridge or a railroad. Once they fulfilled their purpose,
they were disbanded. But over time, the law changed and corporations no
longer had to be turned off once their project was complete. They began to live on indefinitely, with a much more general purpose, profit. And that’s how the modern corporation
was born. Today’s corporations have evolved to have something
very dangerous in their programming. Unlike people, who are driven by all kinds
of motivations — doing the right thing, love for family,
their country, the planet — publicly traded corporations are now–required
by law and the markets–to pursue one single motivation above all others. Maximize value for shareholders — make as much money as possible. That’s it. No, really, that’s what the law
and the markets demand. Imagine a friend saying
“The only thing I really care about is money.” Not someone you’d want to leave your kids
with, or your democracy for that matter. Yes, it is people who run these corporations but their human motivations come second. If they prioritize anything at all over
maximizing profits, they’re outta there. Can corporate leaders do good things like
give to charity or try to be more green? Sure. But not if it conflicts with maximum profits. And since their humble beginnings,
corporations have grown huge. 53 of the 100 biggest economies
on earth are now corporations. So corporations have a
single-minded profit motive. They’re humungous. And their owners can easily dodge the blame for any harm they cause. That makes them tricky to share a country with. If we want them to serve us and not the other
way around, they need some basic ground rules. And that’s where the government comes in, setting rules to keep things fair and safe
and to protect society from corporations run amok. Now if their main objective is to maximize
profit, do you think corporations are content to follow rules that keep them in check? No, of course not.
They want to write those rules. But who is supposed to write
the rules in a democracy? People. That’s why one of the corporations’ key
strategies for sneaking into our democracy is saying they should have the same First
Amendment rights as real, live people. And that’s exactly how they won that 2010
Supreme Court case known as Citizens United vs. FEC. In that case, five members of the Supreme Court
decided that it’s unconstitutional to put any limits on how much money corporations
can spend influencing elections. Why? They said these limits violate the first
amendment guaranteeing free speech. Obviously our founding fathers who wrote
the first amendment were trying to protect the free speech of people. But this decision rides on the crazy argument that
corporations should be treated the same as people and should get the
same rights real people get! This means corporations can spend as much
as they want, whenever they want to intimidate or crush candidates running on a
platform against their interests and support candidates who will do what they ask. Great news for corporations wanting to
handpick the lawmakers whose job it is to keep them in check. Now, I’m all for free speech! If every shareholder and employee at Exxon
wants to personally support some oil lobbyist running for senate, it’s their right. There are millions more people who
will support a different candidate. That’s democracy in action! But now Exxon or any other corporation, can
decide to spend unlimited dollars from its huge corporate coffers to influence an election, without even consulting its shareholders. This is a big deal. If the top 100 corporations decided
to throw in just 1% of their profits, they could outspend every candidate
for president, house and senate combined! Good luck having your free speech
heard over that! So did opening the floodgates on this money
actually cause a flood? Sure did. In 2010, the kind of “independent groups” that
corporations are now allowed to support, spent $300 million. That’s more than every midterm
election since 1990 combined! So corporations are drowning out our voices, getting what they want and
our democracy is in trouble. But we can totally save it! People are so outraged by the Supreme Court
Decision that a massive response is mobilizing. Such a huge problem requires a huge solution and we’ve got one, a new constitutional amendment. The amendment is smart and clear. It reverses this
disaster to our democracy by clarifying that the first amendment isn’t meant
for for-profit corporations. I get that amending the constitution
is a big, ambitious goal. But it’s not impossible. Every time huge positive change has been made in
this country, it’s because people dreamed big,
aimed high, and set ambitious goals. It’s time to do that now, because the life of our
democracy is on the line. Public Financing of campaigns would
be another huge step forward. Congress is working on a bill right now
that would make it possible for candidates to get elected without corporate dollars. Remember, 85% of Americans think that
corporations have too much influence in our democracy. That’s enough to make change, if we can turn that sentiment into action. Look, the corporations won’t get out of our
democracy until we, the people, get back in. So keep fighting for renewable energy, green
jobs, health care, safe products and top-notch public education. But save some energy for
the battle of our lifetimes. …A battle that can open the door
to solving all of these things. It’s time to put corporations back in their place
and to put people back in charge of our democracy.


  1. Post
  2. Post

    this talks like a video for a highschool government class but it's crucial to the continued success of our nation. god damn.

  3. Post
    MA Ab

    I don't know if this video was accurate when it was posted but it is not accurate now. The FEC has rules in place that prevent federal candidates and political action committees from taking any money from corporations. FEC– It may not accept contributions from foreign nationals, federal contractors, national banks or federally chartered corporations. See AO 2010-11.
    This video is attempting to harvest your emotions in order to form your opinions.

  4. Post

    Citizens United is NOT about corporations spending money on political campaigns. It is about govt infringing on the First Amendment constitutional rights of corporations, labour unions, non-profits, and any other organization funding one candidate over the other.

    Massive fail, Leftie

  5. Post

    Interesting take on what essentially boils down to a free speech issue. Citizens United v FEC was originally about a conservative non-profit releasing a documentary that was anti-Hillary Clinton (I assume most of you Bernie Bros crying foul didn’t realize that) and ultimately became a question of government control of money and speech. In the course of the trial Justice Alito asked Deputy Solicitor General, Malcolm Stewart if the government could prohibit companies from publishing books or releasing movies with a political message depending on how close the election was. Stewart said yes. When Elena Kagan argued the case again a few months later, she said that “pamphlets” would be banned, but what defines a pamphlet? Would the unintended consequence be that the FEC started censoring media in the 60 days prior to an election?

    Yes, corporate entities gained from Citizens United, but so did the rest of the country. At least those of us who appreciate free speech and not having a political commissar tell us how to live our lives.

  6. Post
  7. Post
    Joseph Briceno

    OH MY GOD!!! Stop with the splitting of hairs over the term 'Democracy'!!! Talk about trying to cover the message up with bullshit! There are several definitions of Democracy. you are choosing create confusion over NOTHING!!! LOL!

  8. Post
  9. Post
    Wilhelm Kiev

    Went from pretty good ideas to anti capitalist propaganda god the lies and stupidity some of these people buy into actually give me a head ache god don't they see the only way for them to make money is to SELL products that WE like! Christ I get preventing companies to stop funding campaign like lobbyist but then you take a step way to far

  10. Post
    Tara Adcock

    Leftist always go after the constitution first. This person believes "people" are too stupid to make their own decisions based on issues rather than advertising. Gov't regulation nearly killed America under obama. Holding corps liable in court for the damage they inflict is the only way. we have a system that can work but, only if we demand it. wake up now.

  11. Post
    Yonggu Lee

    You can’t have 85% of anything! It’s already unanimous! The question is why people of US couldn’t overturn the Citizens United decision with this almost unanimous idea! Isn’t it just an evidence for a Democracy in dysfunction?

  12. Post
  13. Post
  14. Post
  15. Post
    Scary Dreamer

    Just so common people can understand, the US government ideology is a democratic republic or constitutional democracy. Both of those terms are subcategories OF A DEMOCRACY. That's like arguing that an apple is not a fruit because we call it an apple. You all keep proving that the education in this country is at an all-time low.

  16. Post
    Daniel Ortiz

    i just want to study for my test, not have a mouth full of bias hen it comes to hard money for corporations spending millions of dollars on ideal candidates which would simply only maximize the cooperation's revenue rather than the good for all the people… wait maybe I did learn something

  17. Post
    coolbeans 2016

    This video is misleading. Why they make them. If you honestly are going to form opinions off YouTube videos?!!! If this concerns you, switch over to a browser and search…R-E-A-D!!!
    It's not as interesting as a child like stick cartoon BUT that's why they make these.. their playing to your inner child which gets childish reactions out of you!
    If you don't understand all you read in a online search. Get a pen & paper, write down what you don't understand, then go research that. SIMPLE… Then go back reread!!!!
    As long as YOU stay stupid, their will be political CARTOONS to mislead all you adult children!!!

  18. Post

    Nice animation, terrible video. Bias and loaded wording is not the correct way to present information, at least not with this title. Fixing the title would help.

  19. Post

    I know this is a late comment, but we aren't a democracy. We're a dictatorship. In our case, our dictator is a group of corporations. Money. That's it. Good luck finding anything more altruistic than that in America today.

  20. Post

    Considering that Citizen's United was a republican led effort, led by republican political donors, republican lobbyists, and conservative supreme court judges, this issue isn't as "non-partisan" as they'd like to pretend.

  21. Post
  22. Post
    Shane Abbott

    Error in video at 3:47 — There is a common belief that corporate directors have a legal duty to maximize corporate profits and “shareholder value” — To quote the U.S. Supreme Court opinion in the recent Hobby Lobby case: “Modern corporate law does not require for-profit corporations to pursue profit at the expense of everything else, and many do not.” The law says no such thing, and the market is driven by voluntary participation. You vote with your dollars just like you vote with your ballot.

  23. Post
    Shane Abbott

    There is a glaring non-sequitur fallacy in this video. Just because any entity (media, corporation, non-profit, church, family member) happens to tell you how they would like you to vote, no one is forcing your hand on the ballot. There is this profoundly important filter called your brain that the narrator of this video seems to think is inadequate at assessing the merits of issues and candidates.

  24. Post
    Shane Abbott

    The place where 85% of Americans feel that corporations have too much influence in our democracy is not at the ballot box…it's at the lobbyist's office.

  25. Post
  26. Post
    kelly brady

    corporations invented just a few centuries ago??? what is a few? and what is a corporation to you, because if it is a company owned by multiple individual that own shares of the entity then we have quite a "few" to go back. and the whole "money is the only motivation" is a typical socialist delusion, money may be the motivation but we don't exist in a vacuum and companies don't operate on exclusively zero sum gains because it will return to bite them. I dislike the citizens United ruling but came to get a better understanding of it and instead got some of the shallowest propaganda that i have seen in a while

  27. Post
    Даня Даррилович

    CEO's aren't necessarily heartless when they maximize profits. Keep in mind, that as soon as you cut profits, you need to cut workers as well. Firing people doesn't feel good and if you care about your workers, you'll do what you can to keep them employed with you.

  28. Post
  29. Post
  30. Post

    “Corporations can give to charity, but not if it conflicts with maximizing profits”. Giving money away inherently implies less profit. Unless a corporation gives the exact amount to charity that lowers their taxes but not their profits they are losing some money when donating. An easy example proving the video statement false is Patagonia Inc. I stopped watching the video at this point as I can no longer deem it a credible source.

  31. Post
    Anthony Malico

    Does this include media Corporations who endorse certain candidates?…. Well of course not that would be silly! 😂

  32. Post
  33. Post
    The Question

    This shits is stupid. If you dont do your research yourself on who to vote for and only trust what the television tells you. You are lazy and You should not vote.

  34. Post
    Julian Kernes

    Corporations are not people. That have too much power in a Democracy and too much power in a Republic or whatever else you want to call us.

  35. Post
    Julian Kernes

    Citizens United ruling which was only a 5 to 4 decision far from unanimous. One quote towards the beginning of Justice Steven's dissent:
    "The basic premise underlying the Court's ruling is its iteration, and constant reiteration, of the proposition that the First Amendment bars regulatory distinctions based on a speaker's identity, including its "identity" as a corporation. While that glittering generality has rhetorical appeal, it is not a correct statement of the law. Nor does it tell us when a corporation may engage in electioneering that some of its shareholders oppose.”

  36. Post
  37. Post
    Aunt Sally

    Lots of bots and trolls, pushing the "we're a republic not a democracy" meme. Let's just go to the definition, shall we dearies?

    Republic: A state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.

    A Republic is a democracy. Now, shall we focus on the substance? Corporations are in it for the money ― by law ― and Citizen's United has said that corporations are people. As I saw on a bumper sticker once, "I'll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one."

  38. Post

    Actually, we do have bad lawmakers – not just corrupt but criminal – and that is a huge part of the problem. For example, take a look at this article – – which details the quid pro quo bribery that led to the recent $2 trillion tax giveaway to the wealthy, which is very possibly the biggest crime in history. Every person listed in that article should now be in prison, and the fact that they're not demonstrates the complete failure of our criminal justice system. This is not just because of Citizens United; nowhere in the decision does it say "Bribery is now legal." Quid pro quo bribery has always been, is now, and always will be a crime. We all need to work to get Citizens United undone, but that won't solve our problem. We also need to work to get the government criminals (there are thousands) and their criminal corporate owners into prison, where they belong.

  39. Post
  40. Post
  41. Post
  42. Post
    John Verhoef

    Citizens United: David Bossi, Laura Ingraham, Kellyanne Conway among others. Those are the ones that fucked up American politics.

  43. Post
    Destry Balch

    This is way too opinionated. As much as I agree with the basic argument, it spends 90% of the video grandstanding and 10% actually talking about the subject and communicating facts.

  44. Post

    This sure as hell isn’t “the story of Citizens United”, nor is it the story of the history of corporations. This video is an idiotic, misinformed, economically illiterate screed by an incompetent fool.

  45. Post
  46. Post
    Jake Friesen

    More speech is always better and America is a republic not a democracy. And Hillary spent more on her campaign then trump and still lost. So it doesn’t matter what corporations support you, you still have to get elected by the people.

  47. Post
    The Story of Stuff Project

    What could go wrong if profit-driven corporations gained control your city's public water systems? Watch our latest animation, The Story of Water! 👉🏽

  48. Post
  49. Post
  50. Post
    Phillip Johnson

    Admittedly, there is ONE giant flaw with Democracy — Mob Rule! That is why we ARE a Republic with a component of Democracy to assist in governance. Otherwise, we would end up as a Socialist or Communist country.

    Nonetheless, Corporations cannot and do not act like an individual influencing the political process. Corporations have vast amounts of resources such as, but not limited to, organizations, financial, and political pull not available to common everyday folks. The DOJ ruling shows just how corrupt the DOJ and political system has become. The DOJ overlooked, most likely intentionally, very simple points using freedom of speech as their sole justification. My new call or voice is to see Corporations dismantled down to reasonable less powerful size. Without doubt, Mega Corporations have used government bodies to promote, foster, and centralize Leftist (Marxist) views of the world by and for their self-interested political action movements within societies.

    I am confident that is why the Left insists the last election was tampered with is because they felt they already had it rigged.

  51. Post
    Mark Burch

    Citizens United allowed poor people to pool their money to buy influence in political decisions. Interesting that Socialists are fine with a billionaire owning the Washington Post and filling it's pages with propaganda but deplores the idea of folks giving thirty dollars at a time to counter him.

  52. Post
    Cancun American

    Citizens United is destructive more than anything else. The entire 🇺🇸 political system got infected.💸
    Money is the root of ALL Evil in Politics! 🤔🙁🤦🏽‍♂️🇺🇸

  53. Post
    Cancun American

    Citizens United is destructive more than anything else. The entire 🇺🇸 political system got infected.💸
    Money is the root of ALL Evil in Politics! 🤔🙁🤦🏽‍♂️🇺🇸

  54. Post
  55. Post
    James West

    Who is stupid and idiotic enough to see a commercial by Chevron and vote a certain way because of it? Who cares how much corporations spend on advertising? I have never voted a certain way because a corporation told me to do so. Dumb

  56. Post
  57. Post
    Balanced Stereo

    Money IS Free Speech BUT — Money IS NOT “Free AND Equal” POLITICAL Speech!! — BECAUSE at early Campaign “Stump Speeches” Abe Lincoln & the others were placed “Equally” enough apart to where Voters could move around & Freely Hear All Views Equally!! — So EVIL “Citizens United” Must be KILLED with “Freedom AND Equality” in Political Speech as the “Supreme” Legal Argument & ALL Campaign Spending Must be
    “Equalized” so WE can Freely Hear All Mass Media Campaign "Stump Speech" Equally!!

  58. Post

    Capitalism over Democracy. Voters are a problem according to corporations. Corporations must convince voters the needs of corporations come before the needs of the American people. They give candidates money to use to convince voters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *