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What is Citizen's United?

Updated on February 6, 2017

What is Citizens United?

What is Citizens United and Why is it important to know what happened? Citizens United actually has two identities one is an organization and the other is a Supreme Court ruling.

The United States Supreme Court
The United States Supreme Court | Source

Citizens United as an Organization

The Citizens United organization describes its mission as being dedicated to restoring the United States government to "citizens' control" and to "assert American values of limited government, freedom of enterprise, strong families, and national sovereignty and security." That sounds noble enough doesn't it?

Citizens United as a Supreme Court Hearing

The Citizens United organization was the plaintiff in a Supreme Court case which began as a challenge to the "McCain-Feingold" law. The case revolved around a documentary (click here to view the trailer) Hillary: The Movie , which was produced by Citizens United.

Under the McCain-Feingold law, a federal court in Washington D.C. ruled that Citizens United would be barred from advertising its film.

The case was elevated by Citizens United to the Supreme Court and heard on March 24, 2009. During oral arguments, the government argued that under existing precedents, it had the power under the constitution to prohibit the publication of books and movies if they were made or sold by corporations.

As a result of the hearing, the Supreme Court overruled the Citizens United case under the provision of McCain-Feingold. Thus, the ruling prohibited corporations and unions from paying for political ads made independently of candidates.

The Re-argument

After that hearing, the Court requested re-argument specifically to address whether deciding the case required the Court to reconsider those earlier decisions. The case was re-argued on September 9. And on January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court overruled their earlier ruling on prohibiting corporations paying for political ads independent of candidates.

Thus the Supreme Court undermined a century-old policy barring direct corporate participation in elections, elevating corporate political rights to the same level as those of citizens.

What is the Effect of this Ruling?

This ruling states that corporations have the same rights as a person regarding freedom of speech. They can give as much money as they want to support a candidate of their choice without giving the money directly to the candidates campaign, independent of the candidate's choice or knowledgs. Further, they don't have to disclose the source of the funding.

My Arguments Against This Ruling

  1. The ruling states that corporations have "person-hood." Just try to sue a corporation as a person and see how far you get.
  2. This ruling has spawned the Super PACs that you now hear about. Newt Gingrich's supporter's have funded 10 million to advertisements to support him.
  3. In the corporate world, spending billions of dollars to seize control is known as a hostile takeover. That's exactly what is happening to our democracy.

  4. We the people haven't been completely bought out --- or rather shoved out of having a voice in congress. But we're not far from living in the Untied Corporations of America. Now the more money they have the louder their voice in influencing our government.

  5. We've already seen the impact of out-sized corporate money on our democracy. It is clearly evident in Wisconsin, where Governor Walker, whose election campaign was funded by the Koch brothers and other large private interests, is favoring private corporations over the needs of pubic employees and working families.

  6. The reason big moneyed interest are supporting these campaigns is because they have an agenda that requires congress to vote in their favor on some issue. If the candidate becomes elected, that candidate then becomes beholden to the supporters and will work for their interest instead of the man on the street. This places our democracy in jeopardy.

What can we do About This?

  1. Share this hub with everybody. It's important for people to understand what this ruling is really about.
  2. Sen. Bernie Sanders has proposed a constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court decision in the case called Citizens United vs. FEC (Federal Elections Commison).

A Summary of Senator Sanders' Petition

  • Corporations are not persons with constitutional rights equal to real people.
  • Corporations are subject to regulation by the people.
  • Corporations may not make campaign contributions or any election expenditures.
  • Congress and states have the power to regulate campaign finances.


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    • peoplepower73 profile image
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      Mike Russo 3 years ago from Placentia California

      DzyMsLizzy: Thank you for your comments and thank you for your votes and sharing. Yes, people need to understand what citizens united is a about and what the Supreme Court has done.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Oh, boy--every time I hear about this group, it makes my blood boil. What they have done is nothing short of sedition; possibly even treasonous!

      They need to be permanently shut down, before we find ourselves living in a dictatorship! We are already dangerously close, what with the antics the 2013 Congress has demonstrated with holding the entire government hostage like spoiled children when they didn't get their own way!

      I have shared this everywhere, as well as voted up, interesting and useful! Thank you for your no-nonsense treatise on this matter!

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 5 years ago from Placentia California

      WillStarr: O.K. I quit, You win. All liberals are rotten to the core and all they want to do is take your property and income and give it to others who don't deserve it. Thus it makes them ant-American because you believe in liberty and they don't. All we have done is point out the difference in the liberal and conservative values and beliefs systems and neither one of us is going to change the mind-set of the other, So you are right and I'm wrong. Thanks for the discourse and have a nice day.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      "I'm beginnig to realize that conservatives have a fear of having their property and money being given to other people who don't deserve it."

      That is not 'fear', my friend. That's righteous anger. Big difference, and you cannot reduce it to yet another 'phobia', as the left is wont to do.

      I'm not talking about political donations at all, so don't twist my words, please.

      I'm talking about the socialist insistence that taking one person's property in order to give to someone who did not earn it is justified in what used to be a free country. It is not justified, and Bernie Sanders knows it.

      BTW, Sanders is the one who declared himself to be a socialist, so if there's any name calling going on, he's the one doing it.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 5 years ago from Placentia California

      It is name calling, that's where you and I differ.

      I'm sorry that you have had some bad expereinces. I'm not advocating that people shouldn't work and being on the dole for other's money and neither is Bernie Sanders. So now are you suggesting that all liberals want to give other people's money to the "worthless louts?"

      You are very good at equating things that really don't exists. You say he gives other people's money to the downtrodden and the left is extremely generous with other peoples money. Can you give examples of this?

      Bernie Sanders is not involved in PACs and Super PACs and has never taken any more money that what is allowed by the FEC. I suppose you justify the Right taking money from PACs and Super PACs as not other people's money because it mainly comes from corporations and organizations.

      Which brings us right back to what this hub is about. That the supereme court has ruled that corporations are people, people have freedom of speech, and speech is equated to money (other people's money.)

      I'm beginnig to realize that conservatives have a fear of having their property and money being given to other people who don't deserve it. Well I feel the same way as you do, but I don't fear it. You can call me whatever name you want for that, but I'm not a communist or ani-American. I haven't robbed anybody and I still believe in liberty as much as you do. I think the right feels more righteous because they feel they have a corner on liberty. I think we both get each other's points at this point.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I understand, and I do not think that pointing out that Socialism and Liberty are incompatible is name calling.

      Having said that, I was once a ‘fairness” advocate myself, to the point that I had a job administering one government program, and overseeing a few more. Those who were receiving their ‘fair share’ of the labor of others were basically worthless louts who were perfectly capable of earning their own living. Only a very few were in actual need, and they could have been handled at the local level via charity.

      The more we support those who refuse to work, the more we cripple our economy, until it finally collapses under its debt, like the Soviet Union, and now Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal.

      I now view such ‘ fairness’ enterprises with a clear eye, and I know from reading the words of the Founding Fathers that ‘general welfare’ was never intended to mean ‘individual welfare’ in the form of government largess, extracted by force from those who earned it! You cannot justify thievery by using the Constitution.

      I know that you see Bernie Sanders as a white knight riding to the rescue of the downtrodden, but it’s not Bernie’s money is it? The left is extremely generous, but only with other people’s money, and there is no way you can justify that and still claim you are protecting the liberty of those you robbed.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 5 years ago from Placentia California

      WillStarr: "Is it 'fair' for government to take one citizen's property in order to give it to another who did nothing to earn it?" ---No

      "Where is that authorized in the Constitution?" ---It's not

      But Article 1, section 8 of the Constitution doe say this: "The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States." The key words here are general welfare and uniform which means social and fair.

      I suppose you are going to reject this too because it does say "Tax." My point about all of this is liberals are socialists, but not to the degree of being a communist or anti-American. I reject your definitions and name calling and find them very offensive becuse Bernie Sanders and I are as much of an American as you are.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Why did you avoid my question? :

      Is it 'fair' for government to take one citizen's property in order to give it to another who did nothing to earn it? Where is that authorized in the Constitution?

      "Fairness" is socialist code for income redistribution, and I totally reject it.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 5 years ago from Placentia California

      WillStarr: Let's get back to the origninal issue here. You said Bernie Sanders is a Socialist, therefore all socialist give up their personal liberty and everybody eles. That's all by your defintion. I just realized their is no derogetory words for conservatives. You guys are really good at false equivalence logic. I guess I could call you a captialists and unfettered capitalism is what cauesed the finacial meltdown where peoples moneys flowed to the top of banks and wall street in the form of billion of dollars of bonuses. But to you that's fair, because it is liberty. But on the other hand it is the redistribution of income and property. But all in the name of a free-market economy and the freedome to do so. Thanks for your comments, because this made me realize, there are no names like socialist, communist, fascists for conservatives. They are just conservatives...is that fair?

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Is it 'fair' for government to take one citizen's property in order to give it to another who did nothing to earn it? Where is that authorized in the Constitution?

      "Fairness" is socialist code for income redistribution, and I totally reject it.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 5 years ago from Placentia California

      You are saying he is a socialist by your own defintion of what socialism is. It goes like this, if you are not a liberty loving conservative, then you must be liberal. If you are a liberal, you must be a socialist. If you are a socialist, then you must be a communist. If you are a coummuist, you are anti-American hate liberty and fairness. So you dont'think that fairness is part of liberty. It doesn't have to be stated in the constitution, its implicit in a civilized society. so you don't think that you have to be fair because you believe in liberty, well I believe in lieberty as well. I take exception to you calling Bernie Sanders a Socialist Anti American when he is as much of an American as your are...and so am I.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      "Liberals see fariness in terms of equality where the greater good is more important than the individual."

      I understand that view quite well, and as an American who believes in liberty, I totally reject it. There is no provision in our Constitution for 'fairness' and the word is not even used by our Forefathers. However, the word 'liberty' is used over and over.

      Bernie Sanders cannot swear to uphold and defend the Constitution, and be a socialist who demands 'fairness' at the same time. The two are incompatible.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 5 years ago from Placentia California

      WillStarr : Conservatives have a different view of fairness than liberals. Conservatives see it in terms of proportionality. If you are a success, then you should be rewarded for that succsess in proportion to what you have done and if you are a failure, that's tough. Liberals see fariness in terms of equality where the greater good is more important than the individual. To a conservative this is socialism You said: "Bernie Sanders is a self-described socialist, which in itself is anti-American." When conservatives call someone a socialist, it's just hop skip and jump to call them Marxists, Communist, Pinko Fascists. When infact Bernie Sanders is as much of an American as you are, if not more. He has done more for this country than you will ever know, because you probably don't want to know anything about him, other than your proclamtion that he is an Anti-American Socialist. He is infact, is an Independent Senator from Vermont. Thanks for your comments.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Ah, Bernie Sanders...a self described socialist, which, by itself, is anti-American, because it requires giving up personal liberty.

      I have no objections to the likes of George Soros or the Koch Brothers using their money to influence voters. If people are so ignorant (and I don't think they are) that they can be swayed by false advertizing, then they deserve what they get.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 5 years ago from Placentia California

      Thank you so much for signing the petition. We just need to get people to understand what this ruling is really about. Even the name of the ruling is misleading, because people thinks it's about united the citizens against some noble cause. Bernie is a national treasure!

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      This is basically the same bunch of Supremes who foisted Bush2 on us in 2000 when they should've declined to hear the case in the first place. Until then, I was one of those who believed Supreme Court justices were immune to manipulation by special interests. In Citizens United, they performed like judges in a debating contest rather than the august body they're supposed to be. This abomination against democracy WILL be overturned by constitutional amendment and we WILL once again be a nation of "by the people, for the people" not corporations.

      I'd already signed the petition. Bernie Sanders rocks! ;D

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 5 years ago from Placentia California

      Thanks Brett. I agree with you. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I definetly think there is something going on. After doing my research, I'm not sure the financial meltdown was an accident. There were too many people in the government and financial industry that knew it was going to happen.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

      A very interesting read. It is my honest opinion that the banks and corporations are already in control, they just manipulate the government with rates, loans, support and opposition ... after all, they hold the money and power! It is a scary world we live in.

      Thanks for SHARING.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 5 years ago from Placentia California

      wba: I agree with your comment. It's not the free speech part that's bad. It's equating free-speech with money. Not money from you and me. But unlimited money without disclosure from corporations and moneyed interests independent of the candidate's organization. They do this because the have their own agenda that they want the candidate to support, especially if they get elected. Thanks for your comment. I appreciate the other view point.

    • wba108@yahoo.com profile image

      wba108@yahoo.com 5 years ago from upstate, NY

      I have a different take on this isssue. Regardless of precedent, I feel the Constitution was upheld. All a corporation is, is a group of poeple combining thier resources to get thier message out. The media is a corporation also and we wouldn't want the government controlling thier speech. The first admendment protects free speech who ever it is who is speaking, whether an individual or a group of individuals making up a corporation. Speech is protected under the first admendment, the 1st Admendment does not specified who can or cannot do the speaking.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 5 years ago from Placentia California

      Sooner: Thank you for the depth of your comment. I'm encouraged by the response that I'm getting from this hub. I would not lose hope yet. I think people are beginning to see the light. I read today that Obama asked his staff to seek a super PAC for his campaign so that he can compete with the super PACs on the other side. This may help bring the absurdity of this to light.

    • profile image

      Sooner28 5 years ago

      This pernicious decision is accelerating the takeover of our democracy by corporations. With unlimited amounts of money being spent, this is going to lead to our "leaders" being bought and paid for by campaign donors. The conservative majority on the court decided bribery was a good way to make laws.

      Both parties will end up more corrupt than they already are. Republicans have already been in bed with big oil and against environmental regulations since Reagan, but Democrats have been more slow to come around. With legislators not looking as though they will ever pass a campaign finance bill, and the Supreme Court's conservative majority's utter failure to act as a safeguard for the rule of law, I am beginning to lose hope that America will ever be great again.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 5 years ago from Placentia California

      Thank you Letitia. I'm so glad to see the positive response I'm getting. Maybe we can really affect a change. I just read this morning that Obama is forced to play the game to level the playing field. The race is now on for the big money.

    • LetitiaFT profile image

      LetitiaFT 5 years ago from Paris via California

      This is outrageous. I'd heard it before, but didn't realize there was a petition. I'll sign now. Thanks.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 5 years ago from Placentia California

      Thank you for stopping by. I'm just trying to get the word out. I just read this morning that Obama is urging his people to get in the super PAC game to level the playing field. The race is on.

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 5 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Great Hub Peoplepower. Citizens United was an abominable ruling. I agree with Sen. Sanders that we need a Constitutional amendment.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 5 years ago from Placentia California

      I think we are due for another uprising. Only this time, I think it will come via the internet. Thanks for the comments.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 5 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      Thomas Jefferson foresaw a need for an uprising, every 100 years or so, to keep this country "The Land of the Free". He missed by the number of years but he did not miss on his prediction.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 5 years ago from Placentia California

      Thanks. I'm impressed with the depth of the comments I've been geting on this topic. People are very concerned like yourself. To me this is a very encouraging sign. Thanks for dropping by and sharing.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 5 years ago from Placentia California

      I think you are right about people deciding to be a certain type of citizen early in adulthood. But today we are more divided than ever. It's almost good against evil. Each side sees the other as almost being evil, while their side is good. I think Citizens United will just perpetuate the division.

    • CloudExplorer profile image

      Mike Pugh 5 years ago from New York City

      Wow imagine America the land of the free, also known as the United States of America, all of a sudden one day, to be known as the United Corporations of America. Now that would pop my cherry, sort of speak, and I don't like politics one bit.

      What's next right, I already signed that SOPA petition trying to stop the US Congress from crapping out the Internet and now this, I give up with all this American gibberish, LOL. I think that the people are waking up, and the Government is getting afraid, and thus all these weird uprisings, coming into affect I guess.

      It really doesn't matter what they try to come up with these days, in my opinion they will all fail with their agenda's because people are getting fed up with it all, and some day the people will unite once and for all and change this place for good, at least that's what I see today on approach.

      Exceptional info here, and great hub, voted up.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 5 years ago from Placentia California

      A belated thanks for signing the petition. I agree with you. It's all about the bottom line. I'll see you on your hub page.

    • mrshadyside1 profile image

      mrshadyside1 5 years ago from Georgia

      What I think is really crazy is that all these politicians are elected by real people when starting their careers. Its not hard to look and listen to a man or woman and figure out what they are all about. It is a flaw in our form of democracy and it's call "Political Parties". George Washington warned the founding fathers against allowing political parties but they didn't heed his warning. People decide to be a certain type citizen early in adult hood and remain that way for life usually. Common sense is then flung out of the window and no matter how corrupt or ludicrous the candidate or issue may be the voter sticks to that party. It blows my mind that people would allow things to get this far over the edge. Now,I'm afraid,we have already lost the ability to go back. The new Roman Empire.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 5 years ago from Placentia California

      Thanks for dropping by Edgar. I'm going to your hub site now.

    • Edgar Arkham profile image

      Edgar Arkham 5 years ago from Modesto, CA

      Good hub! Very informative.

    • Deenygirl profile image

      Deenygirl 5 years ago from Levittown PA

      I had signed this petition some time ago. Love Bernie! And... this is the worst ruling ever made, in my opinion. What amuses me is the untold millions spent to prevent taxes of the very very rich. Just imagine what real good that money could do for education, health and research. What infuriates me is that real people don't seem to matter. Profits do.