Summary_of_CU_v_FEC.docx - Location CAMPAIGNS FINANCE...

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Location: CAMPAIGNS - FINANCE; ELECTIONS; March 2, 2010 2010-R-0124 SUMMARY OF CITIZENS UNITED V. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION By: Kristin Sullivan, Principal Analyst Terrance Adams, Legislative Analyst II You asked for (1) a summary of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission , No. 08-205 (U.S. Jan. 21, 2010) and (2) its impact on state law, including Connecticut's. This office is not authorized to provide legal opinions and this report should not be considered one. SUMMARY In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations and unions have the same political speech rights as individuals under the First Amendment. It found no compelling government interest for prohibiting corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make election-related independent expenditures. Thus, it struck down a federal law banning this practice and also overruled two of its prior decisions. Additionally, in an 8-1 decision, the Court ruled that the disclaimer and disclosure requirements associated with electioneering communications are constitutional. The Court's decision in Citizens United likely calls into question laws in 24 states, including Connecticut, prohibiting corporations from making independent expenditures from their general treasury. While the ruling's immediate effect is unclear, experts predict it is only a matter of time before these laws will be challenged in court or repealed by state legislatures.
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Experts also predict that, since the laws are vulnerable, they will be difficult for state election officials to enforce. In Connecticut, CGS §§ 9-613(a) and 9- 614(a) prohibit independent expenditures by businesses and unions, respectively. The decision's impact on Connecticut's lobbyist and contractor contribution and solicitation bans and the Citizens' Election Program (CEP) is less clear. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit asked the parties in Green Party of Connecticut, et al. v. Garfield, et al. , 648 F. Supp. 2d 298 (D. Conn. 2009) to file supplemental briefs addressing these issues. The state contends there is little, if any, effect while the Green Party asserts the opposite. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY In January 2008, Citizens United, a nonprofit corporation, released a 90 minute documentary entitled Hillary: The Movie (hereinafter Hillary ). The movie expressed opinions about whether then-senator Hillary Clinton, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, was fit for the presidency. Citizens United distributed the movie in theaters and on DVD, but also wanted to make it available through video-on-demand. It produced advertisements promoting the film and wanted to show them on broadcast and cable television. To pay for the video-on-demand distribution and the advertisements, Citizens United planned to use its general treasury funds.
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