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Individuals and organizations have a constitutional right to unlimited spending on their own political speech

The BriefGet Up To Speed

Is independent political speech the linchpin of our democracy or its Achilles' heel?   For democracy to work, some say, citizens (and corporations, and unions, and media outlets, and other voluntary organizations) must be allowed to express their views on the issues, candidates, and elections of the day. This proposition, they say, is exactly why the First Amendment protects the freedom of speech and of the press. On this view, restrictions on independent political speech undermine and subvert our constitutional structure.  But others take a different view: If everyone can spend as much money as they like to express their political views, then some voices will be amplified, magnified and enhanced '€” while others will be all but drowned out. On this view, it is this inequality of influence that subverts our constitutional structure '€” and restrictions that level the playing field actually enhance rather than abridge the freedom of speech.


The right to engage in free speech - particularly political speech - and the right to freely associate are two of this nation's most important founding principles.

Saturday, February 27, 2010
Hans A. von Spakovsky

The century-old effort to constrict the ways our elections are funded has, from the outset, put itself at odds with our constitutional tradition.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Bradley Smith

What kind of bizarro world do we live in where a near majority of Justices of the United States Supreme Court criticizes a First Amendment ruling for being overly concerned with “the individual’s right to engage in political speech”?

Thursday, April 3, 2014
Ilya Shapiro

Independent expenditures must remain constitutionally protected; campaign contributions may be restricted. Lots of people on both sides dislike this result, but despite twenty-seven years of criticism, it remains surprisingly persuasive.

Friday, February 16, 2001
Eugene Volokh

The First Amendment exists to protect political speech of all types, including, and especially, ‘wrong’ speech.

Friday, April 11, 2014
Trevor Burrus

The Supreme Court's McCutcheon v. FEC decision further increases the influence of big money in elections. But McCutcheon is just the latest in a long string of cases weakening campaign finance rules.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014
David Earley and Avram Billig

The corrosive effects of super PACs and similar failures of disclosure, coordination, and enforcement policy threaten to undermine the integrity of our electoral officials and the citizens’ faith in our electoral system.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Testimony of Monica Youn

Any intelligent person following American politics these days should be deeply distressed by the ever-growing role of big money in our electoral process.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Geoffrey Stone

Citizens United decimated what remained of campaign-finance reform, but the damage has been long in the making.

Monday, April 16, 2012
Garrett Epps
Wednesday, December 31, 1969
Legal Information Institute, provides breakdowns of data reported by outside spending groups to the Federal Election Commission, with a separate section devoted to data on contributions to politically active nonprofits -- over $780 million and counting -- which aren't required to publicly report their donors.

Wednesday, December 31, 1969
Center for Responsive Politics

A think tank for campaign finance policy.

Wednesday, December 31, 1969

Political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment. Government may not keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce candidates, though they may not give directly to campaigns.

Wednesday, December 31, 1969
Legal Information Institute

The court held that the spending of money, whether in the form of contributions or expenditures, is a form of “speech” protected by the First Amendment. It upheld limitations on individual contributions to political campaigns, but limitations on campaign expenditures were deemed unconstitutional.

Wednesday, December 31, 1969
Legal Information Institute
Amend the Constitution?

The U.S. Senate will vote this year on a proposed constitutional amendment that would let states and Congress regulate campaign finance laws.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Gabriel Debenedetti

A standard liberal talking point about the Tea Party is that its constitutional designs are "extremist." But you will search in vain for any Tea Party proposal that is anywhere close to as radical as the current drive by mainstream Democrats to rewrite the Bill of Rights.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014
The Wall Street Journal

Despite the myriad calls for a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision, there are several reforms—and venues for these reforms—short of an amendment that can meaningfully mitigate the risks posed by Citizens United.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Trevor Potter and Bryson Morgan
Outside Spending Influence

A recent report, <a title="The New Soft Money" href=" New Soft Money</em></a>, concludes that power has been shared with — or taken by — outside groups at the expense of candidates and parties, who are left on the defensive and forced to account for the presence of high-spending outfits.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Derek Willis