What You Probably Haven’t Heard About Citizens United

In early 2008, a group called Citizens United sought to air commercials for their documentary that was highly critical of then-Senator Hillary Clinton. This appeared to violate federal election rules that prohibited corporations and unions from broadcasting “electioneering communications” within 60 days of an election. Citizens United sued the Federal Election Commission and ultimately won a landmark Supreme Court case that expanded corporations’ right to political speech.

The issue of campaign finance is hotly contested. Many argue that Citizens United has opened up a floodgate of corporate spending that threatens to erode American democracy. They also argue that a corporations should not have the same rights as individuals. In this video, Learn Liberty sought out the opposing view, in order to have a more robust conversation on the topic of corporations and politics. Professor Bradley Smith explains why he believes the Supreme Court made the correct decision in Citizens United. He argues that restrictions on corporate speech violate our Constitutional right to free speech.

This is a controversial issue, and we want to know your opinion. Should corporations have the same rights that people do? Should businesses and unions be allowed to influence voters? Share your thoughts in the comments.

For a good overview of arguments against Citizens United, check out the Story of Citizens United v. FEC: http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-citizens-united-v-fec/


  1. Daniel Pealer

    It is a sad statement that the media ran away with a 5 second snippet using it to flame anger over a case that protected free speech.

  2. Matt Wavle

    And freedom of speech, is no freedom at all, unless it’s the freedom to offend.  Freedom to say things that other people will find highly offensive is important, much more important than having the "freedom" to say only those things that are "politically correct".

  3. citizen1111

    What about those people who own stock in the corporation, yet do not agree with the positions taken by those individuals managing the enterprise, with regard to spending on political campaigns. Are these people not then subsidizing efforts seeking an outcome contrary to their own beliefs/opinions?

  4. Chocolate Thunder

    I almost think this video ought to be in the economics category. Many libertarians have been led to believe that corporations wouldn’t exist without the state, but I’m not so sure. Perhaps it is the case that some features of them wouldn’t exist, such as liability so limited that the decision-makers responsible for damages aren’t forced to personally pay for them, but I don’t think it’s the case that no entity like a corporation would exist but for the state.

  5. Ryan Boyd

    I believe without the state there would still be corporate entities, as people tend to group naturally to satisfy their needs. However, I do agree that the almost subsidized liability that allows many to enter with less risk than should be possible would not exist without the strong state.

  6. qazz42

    Yeah, the entire Citizens United thing was entirely misconstrued. People just think it has to do with money and all, but it ignores completely the movie and was to be made and all.

  7. Raquel Rivera

    I have yet to learn about Citizens United in its entirety but I was shocked to learn about their want to ban books and/or movies! I’d like to see another video about Citizens United and freedom of speech to study the trial they discussed in this one. Thank you!

  8. Lukas Koube

    hugh…never heard it like that!

  9. Anonymous

    the ny times is a corporation, too.


    Bet they didn’t think of that…


    [and no – ‘the press’ did not mean the news media!!  it meant the printed word – Thomas Paine cranking out his pamphlets!]

  10. thomas6698

    This whole CU decision was confusing for me to understand until I watched this.

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