Why Super PACS Dominate Elections | Citizens United v. FEC

Why Super PACS Dominate Elections | Citizens United v. FEC


Mr. Beat Presents Supreme Court Briefs Washington DC 2007 A self-described conservative non-profit corporation called Citizens United wants to release a documentary. The film, called Hillary: The Movie, (hey that’s a pretty catchy title) talks a bunch of trash about Hillary Clinton, who just so happens to be running for President. Citizens United wanted to distribute and advertise the film within a month before the Democratic primary elections in January 2008. However, this would be a violation of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, aka BCRA, aka the McCain-Feingold Act, the latest law that limited how political campaigns were paid for. BCRA said corporations or labor unions can’t spend money from their general treasury to broadcast anything through the mass media that specifically brings up a candidate running for federal office within 30 days of a primary. Anticipating that the Federal Election Commission, or FEC, might try to stop the release of their documentary, Citizens United went ahead and took the FEC to the United States District Court, essentially saying “don’t even think about it, FEC.” Citizens United claimed BCRA didn’t apply to Hillary: The Movie, because the film wasn’t clearly for or against a candidate. It also claimed that the Supreme Court decision FEC v. Wisconsin Right To Life justified them releasing the film within 30 days of the Democratic primaries. Not only that, but Citizens United argued that portions of BCRA straight up violated the FIrst Amendment to the Constitution. On January 15, 2008, the three-judge U.S. District Court said “nope, sorry Citizens United.” You can’t have your injunction, you gotta let the FEC regulate. The court said the film was clearly just meant to get people to not vote for Hillary Clinton, I mean…it was called Hillary: The Movie, for crying out loud. They also said the film was meant to be strategically shown right before the primaries for this purpose and they cited the Supreme Court decision in McConnell v. FEC as justification that the FEC could prevent the showing up this film. Citizens United was like you know what? I’m appealing to the Supreme Court. Now, as you know, this can be a long process. What ended up happening was Hillary Clinton did not get the Democratic nomination and Barack Obama ended up being elected President later that year. But that ended up being irrelevant other than the fact that Obama nominated a new justice, Sonia Sotomayor, that agreed with the justice she replaced, David Souter. Actually, that’s kind of irrelevant, too. Throughout 2009, the Supreme Court heard multiple arguments about the case. The Court had remained very divided on the issue. Things got pretty philosophical. Finally, on January 21, 2010, the Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Citizens United arguing that the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment prohibited the government from limiting money spent by corporations, labor unions, and other associations, on political campaigns. Specifically, we’re talking about independent political expenditures, or political campaign contributions not directly affiliated with the candidate. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion. “If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.” The Court’s ruling basically freed corporations and unions to spend as much money as they want to elect or defeat candidates as long as they didn’t contribute directly to candidates or political parties. The majority also argued that First Amendment protects ASSOCIATIONS of individuals, not just individual speakers, so you can’t prohibit speech based on the identity of the speaker. So corporations have free speech rights just like you or I. The idea of Corporate Personhood, or the legal notion that corporations share some of the same legal rights and responsibilities held by individuals, had pretty much been established by the Supreme Court since the 1800s. In this case, the Court definitely ruled that corporations are people man, corporations are people. Justice John Paul Stevens led the opinion of the dissent. Stevens was pretty upset about how this one turned out His dissent was 90 pages, and he passionately summarized it for 20 minutes from the bench. Stevens later wrote a book explaining that a Constitutional amendment should be passed to make sure money doesn’t influence politics, mostly due to this ruling. Today, Citizens United v. FEC continues to get people fired up Bernie: If we are going to maintain a true democracy in this country it is absolute imperative that we overturn this disastrous 5-4 Supreme Court decision on Citizens United. Protesters have passionately spoke out against it, and organizations like Wolf PAC were created in response to the decision. Just like Roe v. Wade, this is a Supreme Court decision that will be discussed and debated for many years to come. I’ll see you for the next Supreme Court case, jury!

Comments

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    speedybill47

    Mr. Beat, Love the way you really get in to describe these cases with just the right amount of comedy and seriousness. As a student in governance almost 5 years ago now, cases like this were always my favorite to debate and discuss in class, eve if the rest of the class wasn't as enthused as i was. When i next see them, you bet you're on my list to suggest to my teachers back home and I think next month i may budget some money for your patreon!

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    omer dassa

    I don't realy get why the "corporation are people" part is so important. is it better that a rich individual will fund a propanda piece than that a corporation will do it?

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    The Exploration with William C. Fox

    Thanks for the shoutout!
    This episode stressed me out because I get cognitive dissonance thinking about it.
    I'd hate to limit speech during the critical final days of an election, but I also hate unlimited dark money in our politics.
    Maybe a constitutional amendment is in order, but who honestly believes we can focus people on that or motivate legislators to push it through the states? My political cynicism knows no bounds these days….

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    Derrek McNab

    this video really makes me want to buy a Nike shoe for some reason now. 🙂

    I'd like to see some globally recognized symbol be used for a corporation that doesn't represent any Corporation at all.

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    Alex Kawa

    This is why I want Montana Gov. Steve Bullock to run for president in 2020. He was Attorney General of Montana at the time of this ruling, and he managed to defend the state from it. He could really rally a crowd with that.

    P. S. Do Bush v. Gore!

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    Lindsay Manning

    What Presidential elections do you think were the most interesting and which ones do you think were the least interesting.

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    N. D. Nicolai

    If corporations are people, then the electoral college is a flawless system, so… No. Corporations do and should enjoy some free speech rights, as well as maintain the ability to react and "boycott" governments with policies they do not agree with (like the quasi-boycott we've seen towards North Carolina in response to the unpopular HB2) but Citizens United goes WAY too far in my opinion.

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    Harry Christofi

    These are two Progressive/Social Democratic movements that wanna change this AND the way our Federal Government works check them out lol
    www.justicedemocrats.com
    www.wolf-PAC.com

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    Mummy Neo

    Mr Beat Why did you create your channel and I think that you cannot offen presidental candiates so FEC should have won

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    Archer Sipher

    Here's a question I DO NOT, want you to answer: What are your political beliefs, leanings, or any other iteration of this question.

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    Kyle Ritchie

    Do you think you could do a video on the FLQ? My history/economics teacher described the heavy handed government response and how it was the last major terrorist-related-event in Canada to date as a result of said action by the government. Would be interesting to get your run-down of the event.

    Love the videos – just found them tonight and have watched about 10 of them.

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    The Wii U Pro Controller Defense Force

    4:52 America is not a democracy. We are a constitutional representative republic. There is a difference.

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    Phantom Rose

    I don't agree with this decision but if there's no way to overturn it I think corporations should pay more taxes then they're currently paying that is the waste that can happen they should also keep more jobs here in the USA.

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    Kakto Tak

    I don't understand. The left claims that this decision is the reason why corporations are allowed to donate large sums of money to politicians, which is what they are against, which is why they want that decision overruled. Yet the video explicitly says that it is not about that. I'm confused.

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    Patrick Anthony Pontillo

    A practical question at this point: Are your followers called Beatniks? Anyway, Citizen's United guaranteed that we will get the best governors money can buy.

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    John Ashton

    Corporations are people in the same way unions are people: They're not people. Are PACs people? What about "super PACs?
    Unfortunately, I can't see a way to get money out of politics. If we eliminate fund-raising, only the rich will get power. If we limit campaigns to "public funds", we infringe on the 1st amendment.
    Maybe we could just let George Soros, Tom Steyer, Charles Koch and a few other rich instigators run the country personally.

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    Michael Benedict

    This is a very tough one still…People can still make public donations, however how do we define a person? Are corporations people? And if not, does that mean PACs, Unions, and others are not people? If so should they have no influences? If we wanted to figure out how to separate corporations from the others i mentioned above, how can we? I dont see any physical difference other than one sells a product while the other two sell an agenda. But even then you 'could' call agendas a 'product' as although it is not a tangible item, it can still be 'consumed' in a sense (such as insurance). What do you think Mr. Beat?

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    Wilson Solt

    Awesome channel. I am binge watching. So don't be surprised if you see several messages from me. Your channel is going to be growing quick.

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    David Lee

    Hillary shouldn't have cheated Bernie ands were wouldn't have an old flabby carrot top as president.

    BERNIE SANDERS should've been our President. The DNC is Still corrupt ands will not have My support.

    That being said CITIZENS UNITED SUCKS!!!

    THE REPUBLICAN PARTY SUCKZ!!!
    THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY SUCKS!

    A foreign lobby called AIPAC HAS CONTROL OF OUR GOVERNMENT.

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    The Wanderer

    Just like roe v Wade whoever was the head Justice does not deserve a bust for this decision. I would like to go to bank of America and speak to bank of America, not their CEOs, not their spokesperson, tellers, bank managers, I want to speak to bank of America itself. Company's are not people, and deserve their own set of laws.

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    Hello World

    Corporations obviously need some rights, but Citizens United is taking it to the extreme. This case was hogwash

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    Joseph Smith

    I think the Supreme Court got this right. Everyone conveniently ignores that the FEC fined and threatened jail to people in organizations like the NRA and the Sierra Club for doing similar (not a movie but pamphlets) to criticize other politicians days before an election; which SCOTUS also brought up. Just so everyone understands, there were organizations/corporations that were legally allowed to criticize or support politicians before an election, they were called MSNBC, Fox, CNN, NY Times, LA Times, etc. Basically, anyone officially approved by the FEC as a so called news organization. But a non-news organization like a union or interest groups…nope. Sorry, that is why the court struck it down, they saw that as arbitrary.

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    Rusty Shackelford

    I agree with the decision being… correct. I also agree with Stevens that we need to change the Constitution so this is not the case anymore.

    It's much like the flag burning case. Upholding what is right is what is important here; and sadly… it is right to say that the US has seen Corporations as people for quite some time and that they should not, by the letter and likely even the spirit of the Constitution.

    Which is why it is paramount that we change the law.

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    fuge74

    I agree, only for independent action, and domestic. this means a BP cannot politically advertise, because it is not American nor an American citizen.

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    allyourcode

    Companies generally incorporation in places like Delaware and Ireland, where they will get favorable tax treatment, regardless of where they actually operate. I would like to declare my residency the same way: in Washington, there is no income tax. In Oregon, there is no sales tax. So, since companies are on the same footing as me, I would like to do the same: pay Washington income taxes and Oregon sales taxes, even though I live in California. Wait, what? I can't just arbitrarily choose my residency for tax purposes? Guess corp's have more rights than people!

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    Elle Sea

    While I don't believe in corporate personhood, I understand how SCOTUS might be wary of restrictions to assemblies as restrictions on the right to assemble to issue political speech.

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    Travis D

    in the Sense that the Majority meant. Yes. Corporations are run by people. They do have certain rights in that same sense. Nike has the right to have a Leftist Lean and Hire Colin Kapernick for their Commercials. Chick-Fil-A is allowed to have a Right-Lean. In that sense they are like people.
    What is questionable and may be a supreme court case down the road, is are Corporations like Facebook, Twitter and Google/Youtube allowed to Censor people based on their Political Offiliation and Beliefs? Are they allowed the Privelages of a Platform, while maintaining the Practices of a Publisher…

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    Ashleigh Stratmann

    Corporations itself isn't a person so to say, but it is run by people who is protected by our civil rights. So really, the people who run the corporations does have rights and are free to express it even through their corporations. Although I'll admit it's annoying to think it that way

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    Steven Dierks

    Why do you focus so much on corporations? Nowhere in the ruling does it say 'corporations are people', any more than it says 'trade unions are people'. Yet the ruling applies to ALL groups of people (yes, real people). You could have said that the court declared that 'unions are people', but instead, you focus on corporations. Could you be more partisan? If a rich person spends, say $1 million on a political ad, that is untouchable, but it 40 people create an association to pool their money, the EXACT SAME ad would be illegal. Don't you see the problem with that?

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    the night hAunter f88k the 1%!! PRIVACY OR gen8cide

    citizens united vs. fec.
    a tale of a shitty person made into a movie made by even shittyer people.

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    Aaron Bradley

    Another terrible ruling by these oh my God I'm trying to clean up my language on your Channel. Let's just say when Ruth Bader Ginsburg one of the voices of reason we we got issues. God bless that judge who wrote the 90-page opinion but you know clean up The Language clean up the language okay see you in the next video buddy

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    Aaron Bradley

    I hope nobody freaking agrees with it because but I'm not going to look because like I said I'm trying to clean up the language this is serious stuff. I think I've had all the learning my brain can handle for the day. I've watched at least 60 of your videos so yeah my head starting to hurt

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    Nessa Nyx

    I should've looked first, lol there was a lot I didn't know here! Nothing was "irrelevant" here 😂
    Corporations should spend there money giving back to the people who keep them rich. Only then, can they be considered The People.

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    Quina

    Cooperation are not people, but they are free to spend the money how they choose. And funny how people keep shouting cooperation are not people often are the people demanding cooperation to more tax rather than people. HEH.

    Government saying what cooperation can and or can not do with their money is another step towards facism.

    You are welcomed.

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    Nicklas Zande STVS TDP est. 2001

    Thanks to that stupid Brett Kavanaugh, this decision can't be overturned. As much as I want it to.

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    tony clark

    This decision has destroyed the working class and destroyed any political representation that the working class would receive by effected elected officials.

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    Tiny Enriquez

    This video helped because you had to dumb it down for some of us THANKS! I'll be watching it like 4 more times until i FULLY understand it! I have a essay due in 4 days yikes

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    Dylan Race

    I forget who said it, but I love the quote “if corporations are people then they should be able to receive the death penalty”

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    Möller Ulrich

    Barry Obama's real father is Frank Marshall Davis, CPUSA 47544. The Kenya story is a fairy tale for suckers. Barry's grandfather invented the entire fraud concerning the Kenyan being Barry's dad. What does a Kenyan know about Jazz, why does Barry look just like Franks other half white kids, and why would Frank "mentor" someone elses, which is about as retarded as the entire phony story.

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    KrazyKris93

    This was the worst Supreme court decision in my opinion. There is only one consitutional solution 99% tax on superpacs no deductions.

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    Professr Frank

    I had no idea it had gotten THAT bad… So sorry for you guys…
    (And im too lazy to do a lengthy illustration of the superiority of election laws in Quebec and Canada… 😜)
    Best candidate money can buy, indeed! Vote early! Vote often!

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    S G

    Corporations aren't people, but they are made up by people. And if people have a right to free speech, groups of people should have it too, which includes corporations.

    The problem isn't that corporations have free speech. The problem is that, through advertisement, those with more money are given a louder voice in politics than those with less money. And that goes for both individuals and companies.

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    Somniad

    It's important to remember that associations of individuals are not people, but I think that it's important to provide associations free speech, and indeed appears to be legally valid as well. The whole "corporations are not people" thing ultimately comes down to an emotional argument, a straw man at best.

    This seems best served by an amendment indeed, because although it is clearly unethical for the side with greater monetary influence to win in what should be a battle of ideas, the status quo does seem pretty covered by the first amendment as it is. I hope the fact that money dominates politics so completely at the present time can be changed without having to disregard important rights.

    Or hey maybe I'm totally wrong about this. I haven't put in the hours and hours of thought that I'm sure both the majority and dissent did put into this case.

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    smhollanshead

    You forgot to mention that the FEC had previously approved Fahrenheit 911, the leftist movie bashing President Trump. Citizens United just want to produce a movie expressing the conservative point of view. Is it so wrong to let both sides have a say and let the people decide?

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    smhollanshead

    The first Amendment says Congress shall pass no law abridging freedom of speech. Under the Constitution, it does not matter if the person speaking is a person or a corporation. Congress may not pass laws that prevent speech, including Hillary the movie. By the way, corporations can only speak through people.

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    Andrew Keener

    I can see both sides. However, I feel that corporations are (at best) a group of individuals who work toward one end goal. Therefore, I'm not sure that the 1st amendment should entirely apply to them. Do I think that the group had the right to release their movie? Yes. But I also feel that they should've done so within the stipulations of the law. I hope I made sense.

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    Joseph Buehrlen

    Corporations are owned by people but the main objective for a company is to have profit every year no matter what the cost so I think it's wrong to let them stuff politicians pockets with money so they can bend the law for their Profits
    So they are not for the public interest so therefore they need to stay out of our politics

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    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!!

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    Spegimation

    Yeah, I don't like corporations promoting politics, but I also don't like the government having the power to block politics. It's very subjective on what is considered politics and I don't trust the government to be fair.

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