Citizens United v. FEC

558 U.S. 310 (2010)

Firm: Gibson Dunn & Crutcher

Issue Area: Voting and Elections

Case summary

"Gibson Dunn represented Citizens United in a landmark case challenging regulations of corporate political speech. The Court held that corporate political speech is not subject to spending limits or other reasonable forms of regulation, opening the door to unlimited corporate spending on U.S. elections. In its brief, Gibson Dunn argued that corporate speech is indistinguishable from the speech of individuals, and that allowing the extremely wealthy to spend vast amounts does not manipulate elections.

Excerpt from the firm's work product

"[The earlier Supreme Court case of] Austin was wrongly decided and should be overruled. Austin’s assertion that the government has a compelling interest in forestalling 'corrosive and distorting effects of immense aggregations of wealth that are accumulated with the help of the corporate form and that have little or no correlation to the public’s support for the corporation’s political ideas' (494 U.S. at 660) is sharply at odds with the more venerated principle, articulated in Buckley and recently reaffirmed in Davis v. FEC, 128 S.Ct. 2759, 2773 (2008), that “[t]he First Amendment’s protection against governmental abridgment of free expression cannot properly be made to depend on a person’s financial ability to engage in public discussion.” Buckley, 424 U.S. at 49. Nor can it be reconciled with Bellotti’s recognition that political speech is no less valuable “because the speech comes from a corporation rather than an individual.” 435 U.S. at 776-77."

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