Don't Un-PAC Yet - Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
January 25, 2010
The U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, No. 08-205, issued a major decision invalidating federal statutory restrictions on corporate political activity. The decision fundamentally changes campaign finance limitations and prohibitions relating to for-profit and non-profit corporations. The Court's analysis, moreover, appears equally applicable to political activity by labor organizations, as certain Justices noted in their concurring and dissenting opinions. In summary, the Supreme Court concluded that it was unconstitutional to prohibit a corporation from making an expenditure to support or oppose a federal candidate if that expenditure is “independent,” that is, not made in coordination with the candidate’s campaign. A related restriction on “electioneering communications,” which refer to a federal candidate close in time to a primary or general election but are somewhat more oblique in their support or opposition to the candidate, was also struck down. Many states also have bans and limits on corporate political law activity that may be subject to this decision.