New legal initiative formed to help fight Citizens United ruling

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Sep 17, 2013

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- A new initiative, launched this week, will help fight a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed unrestricted campaign spending by corporations.

The Free Speech For People, one of the organizations already working to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, launched its Legal Advocacy Program Tuesday.

According to Free Speech, the new program will advocate against the 2010 ruling and its "fabricated doctrine of corporate constitutional rights."

The program also will serve as a legal resource for the growing movement for a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United.

The nation's high court held in Citizens United that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited because of the First Amendment.

The court's ruling in favor of Citizens United stemmed from a dispute over whether the non-profit corporation could air a film critical of current U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"Citizens United embraces a right found nowhere in the Constitution: a right to use institutional mega-money to influence elections and silence voices of individual small contributors and voters," said advisory committee member James Nelson, who recently retired from the Montana Supreme Court.

"Worse, this kind of jurisprudence presents a clear and present danger for the majority of states, like Montana, where voters elect their judges and justices. Make no mistake -- the effects of Citizens United will dominate judicial elections."

James Exum Jr., former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court and another advisory committee member, agreed.

"Citizens United was wrongly decided and weights the electoral process far too heavily in favor of corporations, which have the ability to amass huge sums of money, at the expense of the vast majority of citizens without that ability," he said.

"For those states, like mine, which subject judges to periodic popular elections, the ruling threatens the integrity of our courts."

To date, 16 states have formally called for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

In addition, nearly 500 cities, towns and counties, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia have called for an amendment, and more than 2,000 elected officials nationwide support one.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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