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Kalina Gibson

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Citizens United v. FEC DBQ
In Citizens United v. FEC (2010) the Supreme Court majority declared government
restriction on independent political spending by corporations and unions unconstitutional and
lifted restrictions on soft money given to campaigns by unions, foreign and domestic
corporations, and Super PACs. They argued the restriction was equivalent to constricting free
speech and that it prevented all necessary information from reaching the American public. Super
PACs, a type of Political Action Committee, are primarily funded by wealthy interests and can
indirectly donate unlimited amounts of money to campaigns. The First Amendment protects only
individual speech, not speech by an association of individuals who have the money to buy
influence over legislators. The Supreme Courts decision is not in keeping with the Constitution
because it treats corporations and certain other types of organizations as if they were American
individuals and sets the stage for corporate entities to flood campaigns with their money to
influence voters, thus disregarding the republican principle of freedom of speech.
One of the most important rights American individuals have is the freedom of speech,
which is fundamental to human progress. If Citizens United, or any similar corporate entity, were
an American individual, its rights would have been protected by the First Amendment. The First
Amendment states, Congress shall make no lawabridging the freedom of speech (Document
C). It is vital for American individuals to have the freedom of speech because it allows their
voices to be heard, and gives every individual the equal opportunity to have their interests be just
as loud as anyone elses. Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson explained the importance of the
publics voice when he wrote, and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a
government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should choose the
latter (Document B). Democracy cannot function without free speech, and limitations cannot be

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placed on a persons right to engage in free speech by spending their money on advertisements,
publications, or television broadcasts. So the real debate comes down to who (or what) can be
considered a person.
The Supreme Court majority is fundamentally wrong in its insistence that corporations
are just like people and are entitled to the same First Amendment rights. There are many
profound differences between corporations and individuals, an editorial in the renowned New
York Times outlined a few; companies are creations of the state that exist to make money.
They are given special privileges, including different tax rates (Document N). The main goal of
a corporation is to make a profit and influence others to help maintain that profit. People within
these corporations may have different goals, but the corporation has one job, make money. This
specifically shows how corporations are not people, and why they shouldnt be treated the same
way. The editorial also states how the founders of this nation warned against the dangers of
corporate influence, The Constitution they wrote mentions many things and assigns them rights
and protections- the people, militias, the press, religions. But it does not mention corporations
(Document N). Since the founding of this country, Americans have been warned of the
controlling effects of factions. When American colonists declared independence from England in
1776, they also freed themselves from the control of English corporations that extracted their
wealth and dominated the trade. Founding Father, James Madison, retained a healthy fear of
corporate power and described factions as, a number of citizens united and actuated by some
common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens (Document
A). Madison was speaking in response to the negative experiences colonists had under British
rule and influence of British corporations, like the East India Company. The dissenting opinion
in Citizens United v. FEC recognized the founders distinction between corporations and human

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beings. They understood that the founding generation held a cautious view of corporate power
and, when [the Framers] constitutionalized the right to free speech in the First Amendment, it
was the free speech of individual Americans that they had in mind (Document J). Their intent
was not to provide the rights to the corporations, but rather to individuals to protect themselves
from the corporations.
When the Supreme Court lifted restrictions on soft money limits, they allowed
corporations to flood the policy agenda and influence voters and elections with their wealth. The
ruling of Citizens United argues that, by suppressing the speech of manifold corporations the
Government prevents their voices and viewpoints from reaching the public and advising voters
on which persons or entities are hostile to their intereststoday, 30-second television ads may be
the most effective way to convey a political message (Document I). The majoritys claim that
spending limits prevent all information from reaching the public is completely false and ignores
reality. Americans are bombarded with information everyday and only a small fraction of it is
registered. Money, spent on advertising and promotion, greatly influences that small fraction
they remember. Super PACs have undue influence over millions of voters and secure the
outcome of an election so they can increase their own legislative representation. When wealthy
individuals and groups spend unlimited amounts of money, they can make sure their message
drowns out all opposing viewpoints, and that limits information reaching the public and
influences voters. Matt Wuerker, a Pulitzer Prize winning American cartoonist, suggests that
money can literally drown American voters. Wuerkers cartoon, Another Dam Breaks, details a
wrecking ball entitled Citizens United breaking through the walls of the Supreme Court and a
huge flood of money surging through, and onto voters casting their ballots (Document L). The
money is coming from giants shoots labeled Corp. $, Foreign $, and Unions. Voters are

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swayed by the amount of money these institutions spend to influence them. This gives an unfair
advantage to wealthy interests. In President Obamas 2010 State of the Union Address, he
challenged the ruling of Citizens United v. FEC when he said, I dont think American elections
should be bankrolled by Americas most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities
(Document O). Elections must be decided by individual American votes, rather than corporations
and wealthy groups violating the republican principle of free speech to effect the election.
The Citizens United v. FEC ruling is unconstitutional because it incorrectly broadens the
scope of the First Amendment, as it treats corporations as though they are American individuals
and gives wealthy interests an advantage in swinging peoples votes in elections. In order to
further analyze the incorrect ruling, a document with statistics stating the substantial amounts of
money Super PACs and other corporations receive from wealthy donors to fund elections would
help to display the unconstitutionality of it. Corporations should not be treated as American
individuals because of the glaring differences between the two, including the fact that the main
goal of a corporation is to gain money. Corporations should also have restrictions on the amount
of money they can donate to a campaign, because without one, the wealthiest interest will have
the most influence. The Citizens United v. FEC is fundamentally wrong and disregards the
republican principle of freedom of speech.