Phoenix--During the 2008 presidential primaries, Citizens United released Hillary: The Movie, a film critical of then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. But a federal court prohibited the organization from releasing the movie because it was during a blackout period in which certain types of political speech are banned before an election under the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. The court also prohibited Citizens United from advertising DVD sales of the movie without first disclosing everyone who financed it.
The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and the Goldwater Institute, believing people should be allowed to hear all arguments at all times during an election season, filed an amicus brief in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
"This draconian silencing of core political speech cannot stand if the First Amendment is to have any meaning," said Nick Dranias, an attorney and director of constitutional studies at the Goldwater Institute. "The Goldwater Institute's amicus brief urges the Court to restore the First Amendment to its original purpose: securing the right to engage freewheeling debate and dissent."
The Supreme Court heard arguments earlier this year in Citizens United v. FEC and in an unusual move scheduled further arguments during its 2009-2010 session. The Court asked Citizens United and others groups, including the Goldwater Institute, to specifically address whether it must overturn McConnell v. FEC in order to allow the showing of political movies during an election blackout period. The Goldwater Institute believes it must. McConnell v. FEC is the case that largely upheld the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.
The Goldwater Institute has filed amicus briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in other campaign finance related cases. The Institute believes that laws limiting free speech during elections violate the U.S. Constitution's guarantee to the right to free political speech.
"Newly confirmed Justice Sonya Sotomayor observed, in one of her dissents as a judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, courts should not 'gloss over three decades of jurisprudence and the centrality of First Amendment freedoms in our lives because it is confronted with speech it does not like.' The FEC's silencing of Citizens United cries out for application of the same principle," said Mr. Dranias.
The Goldwater Institute Scharf Norton-Center for Constitutional Litigation filed its amicus brief in Citizens United v. FEC in conjunction with the Wyoming Liberty Group. To read this and other Goldwater Institute amicus briefs, including the first Citizens United v. FEC brief, visit http://www.goldwaterinstitute.org.
The Goldwater Institute is an independent government watchdog that develops innovative, principled solutions to issues facing the states and enforces constitutionally limited government through litigation. The Institute's work is made possible by the generosity of its supporters.