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Citizens United, the Senate Judiciary hearing

The Senate Judiciary Committee is now in the middle of a hearing, "We the People? Corporate Spending in American Elections after Citizens United." Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) excoriated the decision, the Supreme Court justices who made it, and corporations that seek to exercise First Amendment rights. From Leahy's prepared statement:

This brand of conservative judicial activism is a threat to the rule of law. It undermined the efforts of Americans' elected representatives in Congress to keep powerful, corporate megaphones from drowning out the voices and interests of individual Americans. Rather than abiding by the limitations that Congress has developed to ensure a multitude of voices in the marketplace of election contests, the narrow majority on the Supreme Court decided that the biggest corporations should be unleashed, and can be the loudest and most dominant.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the ranking Republican, gave a solid opening statement that wondered at the hysterical reaction to the decision, asking for opponents to at least recognize that the decision was "a close call." Sessions also chided President Obama for criticizing the court at the State of the Union address, comments we took to be a reaction to Justice Roberts' remarks in Alabama Tuesday that the court may no longer attend the annual "political pep rally."

The witnesses: Doug Kendall, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, who argued against corporate "personhood"; George Washington Law professor and legal writer Jeffrey Rosen, who repeated his argument that the ruling represented the kind of activist decision making that Justice Roberts had vowed to eschew; and Bradley Smith, the former FEC Chairman who defended the decision as good jurisprudence that respected the First Amendment.

Smith and Chairman Leahy got into lively back and forth about Smith's comments that people were "freaking out."

On Thursday, the House Financial Services Subcommittee n Capital Markets, Insurance, and Government Sponsored Enterprises will hold a hearing, "Corporate Governance after Citizens United." The witness list is now posted online, and one line of argument will clearly be that corporations must report their political spending to shareholders.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.