Epstein: Free Speech for Corporations
Next week, on Sept. 9, 2009, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the contentious case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The issue at hand is whether Citizens United has run afoul of McCain-Feingold--grandly entitled the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA)--because it took direct corporate contributions that were not funneled through a corporate political action committee.
Citizens United gives the Supreme Court the opportunity to atone for two of its worst First Amendment decisions in the history of progressive tradition. Austin v. Michigan State Chamber of Commerce (1990) upheld a similar state prohibition against the independent use of corporate treasury funds to support or oppose any candidate running for public office. McConnell v. FEC (2003) upheld the McCain-Feingold prohibition against "electioneering communications" by corporations or labor unions just before elections.