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Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
On January 21, 2010, the United States Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission changed our understanding of campaign finance law and its constitutional significance.
In McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court agreed with federal legislation regulating the threat of soft money during election season. 540 U.S. 93 (2003). Although political speech is sacrosanct, the Court found the restrictions set forth by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (otherwise known as the "McCain-Feingold Act") were necessary to achieve government's legitimate interest in [curtailing] corruption. Id. This Act expressly prohibited "electioneering communication," which means money spent on influencing candidate elections.
However, seven years later the Court in Citizens United v. FEC holds that the government cannot regulate our First Amendment right to political speech. Id. at 33. In quoting Buckley v. Valeo, the Court held that political speech is "indispensable to decisionmaking in a democracy, and this is no less true because the speech comes from a corporation rather than an individual." 424 U.S. 1 (1976). Moreover, when govenment uses [criminal law] to command when a person may get his or her information ... it uses censorship to control thought. Id. at 40.