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First amendment - Essay Example

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First Amendment (University) and number) (Date submitted) First Amendment The freedom of expression is a constitutional right as provided by the First Amendment of the US Constitution. The extent of this right has, however, been open to discussion for a long period of time, owing to questions of violations or abuse of this provision…
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Download file to see previous pages There have been a number of issues posing questions as to the effectiveness and extent of the provisions in the First Amendment. One of such is the Citizens United case popularly referred to as the ‘Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission’, in which the US Supreme Court, following a 5-4 decision, ruled that corporations and unions have similar political speech rights as individuals under the First Amendment. Being a conservative non-profit organization, Citizens United claims its commitment to restoring the control of the United States government to the citizens, as well as to emphasize American principles of limited government, autonomy of enterprise, strong families, and state sovereignty and security. Citizens United produced a documentary named Hillary-with respect to the then Senator Hillary Clinton, which was the main issue of the court case. The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, which controls the financing of political campaigns, was amended by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA). Following the amendment, this federal law prevents corporations and unions from spending their general treasury funds towards independent expenditures for a speech referred to as an ‘electioneering communication’, in other words a speech that concerns elections or one that portrays endorsement or disapproval of a candidate in the elections. As defined in the constitution, an electioneering communication ideally refers to any broadcast, cable, or satellite communication that refers to an openly identified candidate for Federal office and is created in 30 days of a major election or 60 days of a common election, (2 U.S.C. § 441b), and that is publicly distributed (11 CFR § 100.29(a)(2)). The documentary-Hillary was released at a time when Hillary Clinton was running for the Democratic presidential nomination, and as such, it conveyed opinions on Hillary’s suitability for the presidency. Not only did Citizens United avail the documentary in theatres and on DVDs, but also planned to make it accessible through video-on-demand. Further, Citizens United went ahead to produce television advertisements to endorse the movie and planned to run them on broadcast and cable television. However, the advertisements and the video-on-demand distribution had to be paid for, and as such, Citizens United opted to spend its general treasury funds. Consequently, Citizens United’s production and initiative was reflective of a violation of § 441b of the constitution. Realizing the looming threat of facing possible civil and criminal charges, Citizens United rushed in to seek an injunction in federal district court, against the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), posing various arguments. First, Citizens United presented an argument claiming that § 441b is unconstitutional with regard to the movie Hillary; a motion that the District Court denied and instead granted summary judgment to the FEC. In addition, it argued that, as applied to the movie Hillary and the ads endorsing it, BCRA's disclaimer and disclosure requirements (BCRA §§201 and 311) are also unconstitutional. According to BCRA ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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