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DBQ: Citizens United v. FEC
Since its original drafting, the scope and power of the First Amendment has been highly
disputed. The Amendment states that, Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of
speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the
Government for a redress of grievances. (Doc. C). The amendment does not clearly specify
what can be considered speech and what falls under the category of people. These two
obscurities have caused centuries of disagreements over the amendment. The most recent of
these debates being the 2010 Supreme Court case of Citizens United vs. the Federal Election
Committee. In that case, Citizens United filed a lawsuit against the Federal Election Committee
(FEC) after the FEC attempted to censor Citizens Uniteds anti-Hillary Clinton documentary,
Hillary: The Movie. Citizens United won the case with a five to four vote on the grounds that the
censorship violated the corporations freedom of speech. At the core of this debate is not whether
or not the censorship violates the Citizens United freedom of speech, but whether corporations
like Citizens United are granted the same free speech rights as an individual person under the
First Amendment. Not only did the Supreme Court allow Citizens United to air its propaganda,
but they also overturned the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), allowing any
corporation to spend unlimited funds on electioneering. While the Supreme Courts ruling that
allowed Citizens United to be uncensored upholds the constitution, their repealing of the BCRA
destroys the values of republican government and corrupts the election process.
What gives Citizens United the same rights as an individual person is the fact that it is a
conglomerate of donors and workers who all support a common goal. Because all these citizens
are united for one cause, restricting the speech of the corporation as a whole is restricting the
speech of everyone that is part of that conglomerate. In the Citizens United v. F.E.C. decision the

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court says that when upholding the First Amendment Congress is not permitted to make these
categorical distinctions based on the corporate identity of the speaker and the content of the
political speech. (Doc. I). This means that anyones speech, including a corporations, is
protected no matter what theyre saying. The speech of Citizens United deserves just as much
freedom as the speech of a political party. According to Justice Antonin Scalia, it is both the
speech of many individual Americans, who have associated in a common cause, giving the
leadership...the right to speak on their behalf. (Doc. K). Scalia is clarifying that Citizens United
is one of the peaceably assembled peoples referenced in the First Amendment. To deny Citizens
United their free speech would be to deny the free speech of all of these individual Americans
associated in a common cause. While the speech is being filtered through the representation of a
corporation, it is still the speech of many individual Americans.
Despite the deserved victory of Citizens United, the Supreme Court was too bold to allow
any corporation the same rights as Citizens United. The overruling of the BCRA will allow any
corporation or union to spend unlimited money on electioneering. The mission statement of
Citizens United states that, Citizens United is well known for producing high-impact,
sometimes controversial, but always fact-based documentaries filled with interviews of experts
and leaders in their fields. (Doc. G). While this mission statement holds Citizens United in a
biased light, it is clear what they do on a fundamental level. Anyone who gives money to
Citizens United knows exactly what their money is being used for. But if a corporation such as
Target were to donate $50,000 to governors who supported their business, as they did in 2013,
Target is then taking the money of their customers and giving it to politicians. Target customers
are now unwillingly giving their money to politicians who they may or may not support.
Companies like Target are not assemblies of people with united speech, they are assemblies of

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peoples money. The Target mission statement states that, Our mission is to make Target your
preferred shopping destination in all channels by delivering outstanding value, continuous
innovation and exceptional guest experiences by consistently fulfilling our Expect More. Pay
Less. brand promise. No where in that statement do they mention giving money to politicians.
Corporations like Citizens United are embodying the voice of their supporters while corporations
like Target are funding their own business interests with their customers money. President Teddy
Roosevelt once said that, the great special business interests too often control and corrupt the
men and methods of government for their own profit. (Doc. E). Roosevelt was commenting on
how big business is not influencing government to do what the people want for America or even
what the business owners want. They only influence government to do what will help the
business expand. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that when the Founding
Fathers were writing the constitution they held a cautious view of corporate power and a narrow
view of corporate rights. (Doc. J). Stevens makes it clear that the founders of America were not
interested in the rights of corporations. The BCRA all that what was left to limit the corporate
control over politics, something that the founders of America clearly opposed.
The First Amendment clearly gives freedom of speech to the people of America, not the
money of America. What would prove the injustice of Citizens United v. F.E.C. decision even
clearer, was if the Founding Fathers themselves clarified that the free speech they spoke of does
not apply to big businesses that seek to control the American government. There is a distinct line
between assemblies of American people and assemblies of American money. The Supreme Court
decision on Citizens United v. F.E.C. blurs that line. As stated by the New York Times editorial
staff, the ruling will allow corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and
intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding. (Doc. N). The decision is the biggest

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misunderstanding of what the Founding Fathers wanted for this country in decades. It broke
down the barrier between corporate America and political America. Without the BCRA,
corporations become more politically powerful than our publicly elected officials and the dollar
becomes worth much more than the vote.