Politics & Policy

Hillary Says We Should Rewrite the First Amendment, If That’s What It Takes to Reverse Citizens United

(Justin Sullivan/Getty)

Hillary Clinton endorsed a constitutional amendment today to reverse the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC​. Clinton said that the Citizens United ruling should be reversed “once and for all, even if it takes a constitutional amendment,” according to MSNBC’s Ari Melber.

In Citizens United, the Court ruled that the First Amendment protects unlimited independent political expenditures by nonprofit groups. The case famously arose when Citizens United, a conservative nonprofit corporation that produces documentaries, made a movie attacking Clinton and released advertisements promoting the movie during her presidential campaign in 2008. A federal court ruled that the regnant campaign laws banned the airing of those ads and the movie in the 30 days prior to the Democratic primaries.

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When the Supreme Court heard the case in 2009, President Obama’s attorneys argued that the ban was constitutional — even going to far as to say that the government could ban certain books that were to be published close to an election.

“Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. asked, for instance, whether a campaign biography in book form could be banned,” the New York Times reported at the time. “[The government’s lawyer] said yes, so long as it was paid for with a corporation’s general treasury money, as opposed to its political action committee.”

Instead, the court ruled that the government cannot deprive people of the right to engage in political speech simply because they have formed a corporation.

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“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,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. “[The government’s argument] would permit government to ban political speech simply because the speaker is an association that has taken on the corporate form. . . .  This troubling assertion of brooding governmental power cannot be reconciled with the confidence and stability in civic discourse that the First Amendment must secure.”

#related#Senate Democrats proposed to change that last year, offering a constitutional amendment that would “set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections,” while stipulating that Congress “may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law.”

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