ON-Lion Letter
The U.S. Supreme Court in late June ordered a new round of oral arguments in Citizens United v. FEC, the "Hillary:  The Movie" case.  The Court wants parties to address whether Austin v. Michigan, a case that bans certain political speech by corporations, including nonprofit corporations such as Citizens United, should be overturned.  The Court also wants to consider whether part of McConnell v. FEC, upholding the ban on so-called electioneering communications ban in the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law, should likewise be overturned and the ban struck down entirely.

Indeed, a new study from the Institute for Justice (IJ) in Arlington, Va., shows the critical need to rein in speech regulations that have flourished since the Court upheld the electioneering communications ban in McConnell.  IJ, which is substantially supported by Milwaukee's Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, filed an amicus curiae, or "friend-of-the-court," brief in Citizens United.

According to the study, "Locking Up Political Speech:  How Electioneering Communications Laws Burden Free Speech and Civic Engagement," at least 15 states have electioneering communications laws, and in many cases those laws regulate even more speech by more groups than the federal ban.  In fact, in May, in response to an IJ lawsuit, a federal judge struck down Florida's law.  He noted that "no court has ever upheld such a sweeping regulation of political speech."

The study is the first ever to examine the impact of speech regulations on the kind of nonprofit corporations at issue in Austin.  By Duke University political scientist Michael C. Munger, it shows that these laws impose a heavy regulatory burden on nonprofit groups for their speech and most lack the resources to comply.

In Citizens United, "[t]he Court has set up a blockbuster case about Americans' First Amendment rights to join together and speak freely about politics," said IJ senior attorney Steve Simpson.  "A majority of the High Court appears to recognize the grave threat to free speech posed by both the electioneering communications ban in McCain-Feingold and the ban on corporate political speech.  This case could mark a significant advance for First Amendment rights and will have major implications for state laws nationwide."
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