The US Supreme Court today upheld that the First Amendment protects speech around elections from corporations and unions. The case concerns Citizens United, which produced a film Hillary: The Movie, which was subsequently banned by the Federal Elections Committee (FEC) under campaign finance laws, though the film was going to be distributed by pay-per-view. Institute for Justice has more on this case, and Cato has a video primer.
Of course, these campaign finance laws were thinly-veiled incumbent protection plans, giving elected officials the power to control what others were saying about them.
Today’s court ruling allows corporations and unions to fund independent expenditures (i.e. issues ads about candidates). But the ruling does nothing to affect the ban on corporate or union contributions to candidates’ campaigns, as the New York Times points out:
It leaves in place a prohibition on direct contributions to candidates from corporations and unions.
In fact, the ban that was struck down only affected TV and radio advertising. Unions and corporations were free to spend on other types of election-related materials. For instance, the PSEA used union dues for an Obama mailer.
Of course, the does raise another issue, particularly for compulsory-union states like Pennsylvania. Union members are forced (via mandatory dues) to contribute to political activity. Hence, Pennsylvania needs a paycheck protection law, like those in place in Washington state, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Ohio, and Michigan. These laws prohibit unions from using dues for political purposes without the express consent of workers.