ON-Lion Letter
In September, the U.S. Supreme Court reheard oral arguments in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) case about whether government limits on corporate and union political spending violate the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech.

"[T]he Supreme Court heard two very different arguments:  one, that the First Amendment protects the rights of everyone, including corporate shareholders and union members, to speak in campaigns," according to Bradley A. Smith, chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) in Washington, D.C. "The other:  that the government can censor certain speakers it disfavors because of an unproven fear independent speech could cause corruption."

"Twenty-six states allow similar corporate expenditures with no demonstrated instances of corruption due to independent speech," continued Smith, a former FEC chairman.  "When the government decides to void the First Amendment guarantee that 'Congress shall make no law' regulating political speech, it bears the burden of proof to show how such freedom is corrupting.  On the contrary, speech by corporations and unions enriches public debate and must be allowed to flourish."

"Based on [the] argument, free speech advocates can be optimistic for a broad vindication of First Amendment rights," said Steve Simon, senior attorney at the Institute for Justice (IJ) in Arlington, Va.  "Several justices recognized that a piecemeal approach to free speech is insufficient to protect vital constitutional rights.  As Chief Justice [John] Roberts said, 'We don't put our First Amendment rights in the hands of FEC bureaucrats.'

"Corporate speech bans are nothing more than government censorship of selected speakers," Simpson continued.  "The simple fact is it takes money, including corporate money, to speak up and be heard.  Under the First Amendment, the government has no businesses deciding which speakers gain admittance to the marketplace of ideas."

Both CCP and IJ, which are supported by Milwaukee's Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, filed amicus curiae, or "friend-of-the-court" briefs in Citizens United.
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