Citizens United Redux: The First Amendment Vindicated?
In January 2008, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the commercials for a film, Hillary: The Movie, violated the section of the McCain-Feingold Act that restricts "electioneering communications" within 30 days before primaries. The United States Supreme Court was expected to rule on this case in the summer of 2009. Instead, the Court asked that the case be reargued, focusing on whether two of its precedents should be overturned. The first precedent upheld part of McCain-Feingold; the second (and more important) decision, Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, upheld government prohibitions on political speech by corporations. The reargument is scheduled for September 9, 2009. Proponents claim that overruling the Austin precedent would unleash business spending on political speech, thereby weakening democracy. Others see, in the end of Austin, an opening toward new era of political speech that is free of government control. Please join us for a spirited assessment of the prospects of a major change in First Amendment law and electoral politics.