Campaign finance spending limits on corporations and unions are unconstitutional, according to the U.S. Supreme Court in its decision released today in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
The 176-page decision is an unusually long one, and it strikes down one of the key provisions of campaign finance law enacted in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, aka "McCain-Feingold." You can read the text of the decision here.
The decision will no doubt spark renewed national debate about the propriety of Congress banning broadcast political advertisements aimed at named incumbents in the days leading up to congressional elections.
For the moment, David Bosse of Citizens United, who brought the case four years ago, issued a statement hailing the court's decision:
“Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing Citizens United to air its documentary films and advertisements is a tremendous victory, not only for Citizens United but for every American who desires to participate in the political process.
“As our case amply demonstrates, campaign finance legislation over the last two decades has imposed, as Justice Kennedy put it, a “censorship . . . vast in its reach.” By overruling Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and striking down McCain-Feingold’s ban on so-called electioneering communications, the Supreme Court has made possible the participation in our political process that is the right of every American citizen – a right that had been severely curtailed under McCain-Feingold.
“This is a victory for Citizens United, but even more so for the First Amendment rights of all Americans. The fault line on this issue does not split liberals and conservatives or Republicans and Democrats. Instead, it pits entrenched establishment politicians against the very people whom they are elected to serve."
UPDATE: Sen. Mitch McConnell praises decision
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who led the legal effort against McCain-Feingold, issued this reaction to the decision:
“For too long, some in this country have been deprived of full participation in the political process. With today’s monumental decision, the Supreme Court took an important step in the direction of restoring the First Amendment rights of these groups by ruling that the Constitution protects their right to express themselves about political candidates and issues up until Election Day. By previously denying this right, the government was picking winners and losers. Our democracy depends upon free speech, not just for some but for all.”