America: The Movie

Another of those alarming clashes between solid democratic values has arisen, as the Supreme Court has agreed to rehear arguments relating to Citizens United v.Federal Election Committee.  In the weeks before the 2008 Democratic primaries, Citizens United, a conservative nonprofit group and creator of an uncomplimentary documentary called Hillary: The Movie, had wished to broadcast commercials for its product and show the film in theaters and via video-on-demand services for cable and satellite subscribers.  But in 2008, a federal district court held Citizens United to be in violation of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law, which prohibits, together with a great many other actions hitherto found inoffensive, the broadcast or transmission of “electioneering communications” underwritten by a corporation 30 days before a presidential primary and 60 days before a general election.  Citizens United argues that the ban amounts to a denial of its constitutional right to freedom of speech, and its claim has been supported by the usual advocates of the First Amendment.

Helpful people are suggesting that the Snowe-Jeffords Amendment to McCain-Feingold, which exempts nonprofit corporations in such cases where the words “electioneering communications” are interpreted too broadly, offers the Court an obvious solution.  One might assume that the issue was resolved nearly two centuries ago in...

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