Three decades ago, the First Amendment had nothing to do with campaign finance law, but now claims of free speech are used to overturn legitimate campaign finance restrictions. In the U.S. Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, five justices ruled that corporations and unions had a constitutional right to spend unlimited sums in elections. In so doing, they overturned decades of precedent and dozens of laws. The ruling earned banner headlines, a sharp State of the Union rebuke, and public disapproval hovering near 80 percent in the polls. In the 2010 election that followed, independent spending spiked, much of it done secretly. The decision ranks among the Court’s most controversial and consequential.
The Brennan Center and The Century Foundation consider the influence of money on American democracy damaging to the integrity of the republic. Rather than acquiesce to the ongoing judicial assault against campaign finance laws enacted by elected officials, both groups remain deeply committed to finding ways to diminish the outsized clout of money in elections and governing.
This volume is an attempt to map out the complex labyrinth that led to Citizens United and to explore where this decision may lead. The chapters in it arose from a symposium sponsored by NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice just nine weeks after the Citizens United decision was announced.
With contributions by:
Mark C. Alexander • Richard Briffault • Deborah Hellman • Frances R. Hill • Samuel Issacharoff • Burt Neuborne • Richard H. Pildes • Robert Post • Geoffrey R. Stone • Zephyr Teachout • Monica Youn