Thursday, January 21, 2010

Free Speech for Corporations and Unions

The Supreme Court struck down campaign finance laws and overruled some fairly recent precedent today in Citizens United v. FEC. The case represents a broad application of free speech rights to corporations with probable applicability to unions. In short, the Court held that:
"Federal law prohibits corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make independent expenditures for speech defined as an 'electioneering communication' or for speech expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate . . . . The Government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether."
In other words: the ban violates the First Amendment, the disclosure and disclaimer requirements are OK. Some people loved it; Some people hated it; The actual opinions (.pdf) span 183 pages so I suspect most people haven't even read it. Sadly, I am in the last category at the moment.

As Lawffice Space is primarily a labor and employment law blog, this case is a little beyond my ordinary scope. Because it is getting such huge media attention, and its broad implications for corporations and unions, I figured it was worth passing along to my readers.

For SCOTUS nerds, there is some buzz about Justice Stevens having trouble reading from his dissent from the bench. Whatever trouble he had speaking, he more than made up for in writing... his dissent is ninety pages!

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