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Regulatory: Corporate Political Expenditures After Citizens United

This month's elections featured an avalanche of independent spending designed to persuade voters to support or oppose particular candidates. Anyone who lives in a state with one or more competitive races on the 2010 ballot witnessed the overwhelming number of campaign advertisements. The Sunlight Foundation estimates that more than $450 million was spent on these independent activities this year, not including money spent by the candidates themselves and by the political parties.

The influx of money can be attributed, in part, to the Supreme Court's January 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. A divided Court rejected a provision of federal law barring corporate expenditures for certain election activities, overturning decades of judicial precedent. The Court concluded, in short, that "the Government may not suppress political speech on the basis of the speaker's corporate identity."

William H. Minor

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