What is "Citizens United"?
“Citizens United” is a lawsuit brought by a lobbying group called Citizens United against the Federal Elections Commission in 2008. The lawsuit was heard by the US Supreme Court after a series of previous judgments in lower courts.
The case originated when a lobbying group called Citizens United wanted to air a film critical of Hillary Clinton and to advertise the film during television broadcasts. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) denied their request so "Citizens United" sued the FEC.
When the case was heard by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, the Court held that the McCain–Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act applied, and it prohibited Citizens United from advertising the film "Hillary: The Movie" in broadcasts or paying to have it shown on television within 30 days of the 2008 Democratic primaries.
That decision was appealed to the US Supreme Court, who ruled in 2010 that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by a nonprofit corporation.
Purpose of the Tool Kit
This tool kit is intended to provide a wide range of background material that can be used to understand the Citizens United case and its implications and tools for conducting a public forum. We encourage you to use this toolkit in forums, in your communications and as a resource guide. Please share the link with members and others in your community.
Guide to the Toolkit
Following are brief overviews and descriptions of each discussion area in this toolkit. You can navigate to a discussion area by clicking on the hyperlinks in this panel or by clicking on one of the headings or subheadings on the right hand side bar of each page.
This section lists research papers that give a historical overview of the 2010 Supreme Court decision of Citizens United v Federal Elections Commission (FEC).
This section provides articles discussing how the ruling affects corporate freedoms and the rights of individual citizens, as well as the amounts, types, sources and disclosure of money spent in our political process.
The Citizens United ruling changed the landscape of political campaign spending, significantly altering how, and how much, and how secretively “special interests” now spend in their efforts to affect the passage or defeat of initiatives, impact candidate races and influence the behavior of candidates and elected officials. These alterations to the political process have impacted the behavior of candidates, elected officials, and voters while also impeding voter access to elected officials.
There are four Federal regulatory agencies which have legal jurisdiction allowing them to curb campaign spending. They are: 1) the Federal Election Commission (FEC), 2) the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), 3) the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and, 4) Security and Exchange Commission (SEC). Papers in this section discuss these agencies.
Papers in this section discuss nationwide efforts to address issues with campaign finance reform.
Papers in this section discuss campaign finance issues and legislation in Washington state..
In this section are tools that can be used in forums to stimulate discussion of campaign finance.