Opinions & Commentaries

The issues tendered in this case are the construction and, ultimately, the constitutionality of 18 U. S. C. § 610, an Act of Congress that prohibits corporations and labor organizations from making "a contribution or expenditure in connection with" any election for federal office. This is a direct appeal by the Government from a judgment of the District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan dismissing a four-count indictment that charged appellee, a labor organization, with having made expenditures in violation of that law. Appellee had moved to dismiss the indictment on the grounds (1) that it failed to state an offense under the statute and (2) that the provisions of the statute "on their face and as construed and applied" are unconstitutional. The district judge held that the indictment did not allege a statutory offense and that he was therefore not required to rule upon the constitutional questions presented. 138 F. Supp. 53. The case came here, 351 U. S. 904, under the Criminal Appeals Act of 1907, as amended, 18 U. S. C. § 3731.

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There are other questions, but the principal issue presented for decision is whether a private cause of action for damages against corporate directors is to be implied in favor of a corporate stockholder under 18 U. S. C. § 610, a criminal statute prohibiting corporations from making "a contribution or expenditure in connection with any election at which Presidential and Vice Presidential electors . . . are to be voted for."[1] We conclude *69 that implication of such a federal cause of action is not suggested by the legislative context of § 610 or required to accomplish Congress' purposes in enacting the statute. We therefore have no occasion to address *70 the questions whether § 610, properly construed, proscribes the expenditures alleged in this case, or whether the statute is unconstitutional as violative of the First Amendment or of the equal protection component of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

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The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (Act), as amended in 1974, contained a large variety of restrictions on political campaign giving and spending. Various federal officeholders and candidates, supporting political organizations, and others brought suit against appellees (the Secretary of the Senate, Clerk of the House, Comptroller General, Attorney General, and the Commission) seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against several statutory provisions on various constitutional grounds.

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In sustaining a state criminal statute that forbids certain expenditures by banks and business corporations for the purpose of influencing the vote on referendum proposals, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that the First Amendment rights of a corporation are limited to issues that materially affect its business, property, or assets. The court rejected appellants' claim that the statute abridges freedom of speech in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The issue presented in this context is one of first impression in this Court. We postponed the question of jurisdiction to our consideration of the merits. 430 U. S. 964 (1977). We now reverse.

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453 U.S. 182 (1981) CALIFORNIA MEDICAL ASSOCIATION ET AL. v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION ET AL.   No. 79-1952. Supreme Court of United States.   Argued January 19, 1981. Decided June 26, 1981. APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT.*184 Rick C. Zimmerman argued the cause for appellants. With him on the briefs was David E. Willett. Charles N. Steele argued the cause for appellees. With him on the brief was Kathleen Imig Perkins.[*] Louis R. Cohen, A. Stephen Hut, Jr., Roger M. Witten, Kenneth J. Guido, Jr., and Ellen G. Block filed a brief for […]

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The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, 86 Stat. 11, as amended, 2 U. S. C. § 431 et seq. (1976 ed. and Supp. IV), limits the contributions that may be made to candidates or political committees in an election for federal office. One provision of the Act, § 441a(d), authorizes limited expenditures by the national and state committees of a political party in connection with a general election campaign for federal office. After authorizing such expenditures, which otherwise would be impermissible,[1] the section specifies the amount a *29 national committee may spend in connection with a Presidential campaign, § 441a(d)(2), and limits the amount that national and state committees of a political party may spend in connection with the general election campaign of a candidate for the Senate or the House of Representatives, § 441a(d)(3). In this litigation we examine whether § 441a(d)(3) is violated when a state committee of a political party designates the national senatorial campaign committee of that party as its agent for the purpose of making expenditures allowed by the Act.

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The issue on appeal is whether a limitation of $250 on contributions to committees formed to support or oppose ballot measures violates the First Amendment.

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Section 310(a) of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA), 88 Stat. 1285, as amended, 2 U. S. C. § 437h(a) (1976 ed., Supp. IV), lists three categories of plaintiffs who may challenge the constitutional validity of FECA in specially expedited suits: (1) the Federal Election Commission (FEC), (2) "the national committee of any political party," and (3) "any individual eligible to vote in any election for the office of President." In this case, we address a question we expressly reserved in California Medical Assn. v. FEC, 453 U. S. 182, 187, n. 6 (1981): whether a party not belonging to one of the three categories listed in § 437h(a) may nonetheless invoke its procedures.

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This case presents the question whether certain disclosure requirements of the Ohio Campaign Expense Reporting Law, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3517.01 et seq. (1972 and Supp. 1981), can be constitutionally applied to the Socialist Workers Party, a minor political party which historically has been the object of harassment by government officials and private parties. The Ohio statute requires every political party to report the names and addresses of campaign contributors and recipients of campaign disbursements. In Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U. S. 1 (1976), this Court held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from compelling disclosures by a minor political party that can show a "reasonable probability" that the compelled disclosures will subject those identified to "threats, harassment, or reprisals." Id., at 74. Employing this test, a three-judge District Court for the Southern District of Ohio held that the Ohio statute is unconstitutional as applied to the Socialist Workers Party. We affirm.

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The question in the case ultimately comes down to whether respondent National Right to Work Committee (NRWC or respondent) limited its solicitation of funds to "members" within the meaning of 2 U. S. C. § 441b(b)(4)(C).[1]In April 1977, petitioner Federal Election Commission (Commission)[2] determined that there was probable cause to *199 believe that NRWC had violated the above-cited provisions of the Act by soliciting contributions from persons who were not its "members." Shortly thereafter, respondent filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia seeking injunctive and declaratory relief against the Commission. One month later, the Commission filed an enforcement proceeding against respondent in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking to establish respondent's violation of 2 U. S. C. § 441b. The actions were consolidated in the latter court, which granted summary judgment in favor of the Commission on the basis of stipulated facts. 501 F. Supp. 422 (1980).[3] The judgment of the District Court was reversed by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 214 U. S. App. D. C. 215, 665 F. 2d 371 (1981), and we granted certiorari. 456 U. S. 914 (1982).

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[††]The Presidential Election Campaign Fund Act (Fund Act), 26 U. S. C. § 9001 et seq., offers the Presidential candidates of major political parties the option of receiving public financing for their general election campaigns. If a Presidential candidate elects public financing, § 9012(f) makes it a criminal offense for independent "political committees," such as appellees National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC) and Fund For A Conservative Majority (FCM), to expend more than $1,000 to further that candidate's election. A three-judge District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, in companion lawsuits brought respectively by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and by the Democratic Party of the United States and the Democratic National *483 Committee (DNC), held § 9012(f) unconstitutional on its face because it violated the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. These plaintiffs challenge that determination on this appeal, and the FEC also appeals from that part of the judgment holding that the Democratic Party and the DNC have standing under 26 U. S. C. § 9011(b)(1) to seek a declaratory judgment against appellees upholding the constitutionality of § 9012(f). We noted probable jurisdiction pursuant to the statutory appeal provision of § 9011(b)(2), which provides for a direct appeal to this Court from three-judge district courts convened in proceedings under § 9011(b)(1). 466 U. S. 935 (1984). We reverse the judgment of the District Court on the issue of the standing of the Democratic Party and the DNC, but affirm its judgment as to the constitutional validity of § 9012(f).

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479 U.S. 238 (1986) FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION v. MASSACHUSETTS CITIZENS FOR LIFE, INC.   No. 85-701. Supreme Court of United States.   Argued October 7, 1986 Decided December 15, 1986 APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIRST CIRCUIT*240 Charles N. Steele argued the cause for appellant. With him on the briefs was Richard B. Bader. Francis H. Fox argued the cause for appellee. With him on the brief was E. Susan Garsh.[*] Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the American Civil Liberties Union et al. by Marjorie Heins, Burt Neuborne, and Jack Novik; […]

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Overruled

In this appeal, we must determine whether § 54(1) of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act, 1976 Mich. Pub. Acts 388, violates either the First or the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Section 54(1) prohibits corporations from using corporate treasury funds for independent expenditures in support of, or in opposition to, any candidate in elections for state office. Mich. Comp. Laws § 169.254(1) (1979). Corporations *655 are allowed, however, to make such expenditures from segregated funds used solely for political purposes. § 169.255(1). In response to a challenge brought by the Michigan State Chamber of Commerce (Chamber), the Sixth Circuit held that § 54(1) could not be applied to the Chamber, a Michigan nonprofit corporation, without violating the First Amendment. 856 F. 2d 783 (1988). Although we agree that expressive rights are implicated in this case, we hold that application of § 54(1) to the Chamber is constitutional because the provision is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

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The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, 2 U.S.C. _ 431 et seq., imposes limits on contributions to candidates for federal office. The Act, for example, provides that individuals may contribute no more than $1,000 to any candidate with respect to any election. 2 U.S.C. _ 441a. The Act similarly provides that multicandidate political committees may contribute no more than $5,000 to any candidate. Expenditures that are made by a person or committee in cooperation with a candidate are deemed to be contributions under the Act. Political committee expenditures are also deemed to be contributions attributable to a particular candidate if the expenditures create a communication that refers to a clearly identified candidate and contains an electioneering message. In Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976), the Court held that limitations on expenditures for political speech must be necessary to achieve a compelling governmental interest and must be narrowly tailored to advance that interest. In Buckley, the Court also held that the First Amendment prohibited restrictions on an individual's ability to make expenditures not coordinated with a candidate. In Federal Election Commission v. National Conservative Political Action Committee, 470 U.S. 480 (1985), the Court extended the holdings in Buckley to apply to "independent" expenditures made by political committees. In early 1986, the Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee sponsored radio advertisements critical of then-Representative Tim Wirth, a Democrat seeking his party's nomination for the U.S. Senate. At the time that the advertisement was broadcast, the Republican Party had not yet nominated a candidate for the Senate seat. After the Colorado Democratic Party filed an administrative complaint under the Act, the Federal Election Commission determined that the expenditure for the advertisement was a coordinated party expenditure subject to the limitations of the Act. The FEC then filed a civil complaint in the federal district court, claiming that the Republican Committee had exceeded the limits set forth in the Act. The Committee argued that the advertisement was not an expenditure in connection with a general election and that the Act violated the Committee's rights of free speech and association. The district court agreed that the expenditure was not made in connection with a general election and that it therefore was not subject to the Act. On appeal, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the advertisement was subject to the Act because it was directed at a clearly identified candidate and contained an electioneering message. The court of appeals also rejected the Committee's First Amendment argument.

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In 1994 Missouri enacted a statute limiting contributions to candidates for state and local offices. Shrink Missouri Government PAC (a political action committee) and Zev David Fredman (a candidate for state auditor) sued the parties responsible for enforcing the statute, challenging its constitutionality. They claimed that the contribution limits violated their First Amendment free-speech rights and that Fredman could not run an effective campaign with the limits in place. The district court upheld Missouri's campaign-contribution limits. The court of appeals reversed the judgment of the district court and held that the Missouri campaign limits violate the First Amendment. In Buckley, the Supreme Court struck down federal expenditure regulations as violating the First Amendment, but upheld contribution restrictions. The Respondents in this case claim that the State must justify the imposition of these limits by showing actual evidence of their claim that the absence of limits encourages corruption in the political process.

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In 1986, the Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee paid for several radio ads attacking the voting record of Tim Wirth, the potential Democratic senatorial candidate. The ads ran before the Republican nominee for senator had been selected. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) filed an action alleging that the party had violated the Party Expenditure Provision (PEP) of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 by exceeding spending limits for political parties. The Colorado Republican Party sued in federal court, claiming that the provision violated the First Amendment. The case eventually reached the United States Supreme Court, which ruled in Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee v. Federal Election Commission, 518 U.S. 604 (1996)("Colorado I") that the provision could not be applied to independent expenditures by political parties. In 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a plurality decision that the PEP was unconstitutional as applied to the particular expenditure at issue. The Court characterized the radio ads as "independent expenditures" (not subject to the PEP) as opposed to "coordinated expenditures" (subject to the PEP). The majority determined the Wirth ads were "independent expenditures" because the chairman of the Colorado Republican Party had approved the ad and had not consulted with the respective Republican candidates. The Colorado I court then remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings with regard to the broader issue of whether the PEP of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 violates a political party's First Amendment rights by limiting the amount of money a party may spend in "coordination" with its congressional candidates. Four justices in Colorado I (Thomas, Scalia, Kennedy and Rehnquist) ruled that they would have struck down the PEP with regards to both independent and coordinated expenditures. In 1999, the U.S. District Court granted summary judgment to the Colorado Republican Party, ruling that the limits on political parties' coordinated expenditures violated the First Amendment. In May of 2000, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit affirmed. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari on Oct. 10, 2000.

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Since 1907, federal law has barred corporations from contributing directly to candidates for federal office. We hold that applying the prohibition to nonprofit advocacy corporations is consistent with the First Amendment.

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Overruled

540 U.S. 93 (2003) McCONNELL, UNITED STATES SENATOR, ET AL. v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION ET AL.   No. 02-1674. Supreme Court of United States.   Argued September 8, 2003. Decided December 10, 2003[*] APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA*94 *95 *96 *97 *98 *99 *100 *101 *102 *103 *104 *105 *106 *107 *108 *109 *110 STEVENS and O’CONNOR, JJ., delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to BCRA Titles I and II, in which SOUTER, GINSBURG, and BREYER, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to BCRA Titles […]

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546 U.S. 410 (2006) WISCONSIN RIGHT TO LIFE, INC. v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION.     No. 04-1581. Supreme Court of United States.    Argued January 17, 2006. Decided January 23, 2006.James Bopp, Jr., argued the cause for appellant. With him on the briefs were Richard E. Coleson and M. Miller Baker.Solicitor General Clement argued the cause for appellee. With him on the brief were Deputy Solicitor General Garre, Malcolm L. Stewart, Lawrence H. Norton, Richard B. Bader, David Kolker, and Harry J. Summers.[*] *411 PER CURIAM. The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), § 203, as amended, 116 Stat. […]

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(Slip Opinion) OCTOBER TERM, 2005 1 Syllabus NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337. SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES Syllabus RANDALL ET AL. v. SORRELL ET AL. CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT […]

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127 S.Ct. 2652 (2007) FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION, Appellant, v. WISCONSIN RIGHT TO LIFE, INC. Senator John McCain, et al., Appellants, v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc.       Nos. 06-969, 06-970. Supreme Court of United States.    Argued April 25, 2007. Decided June 25, 2007.*2658 Paul D. Clement, Solicitor General, Washington, DC, for appellant in No. 06-969.Seth P. Waxman, for appellants in No. 06-970.James Bopp, Jr., Terre Haute, IN, for appellee. Paul D. Clement, Solicitor General, Counsel of Record, Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for appellant. M. Miller Baker, Michael S. Nadel, McDermott Will & Emery LLP, Washington, DC, […]

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128 S.Ct. 2759 (2008) Jack DAVIS, Appellant, v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION.   No. 07-320. Supreme Court of United States.   Argued April 22, 2008. Decided June 26, 2008.*2765 Andrew D. Herman, for Appellant. Paul D. Clement, for Appellee. Thomasenia P. Duncan, David Kolker, Associate General Counsel, Kevin Deeley, Assistant General Counsel, Holly J. Baker, Claire N. Rajan, Washington, D.C., Paul D. Clement, Gregory G. Garre, Deputy Solicitor General, Malcolm L. Stewart, Assistant to the Solicitor General, Washington, D.C., for Appellee. Andrew D. Herman, Stanley M. Brand, Brand Law Group, PC, Washington, D.C., Elizabeth F. Getman, Sandler, Reiff & Young, P.C., […]

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The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), prohibited corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make independent expenditures for speech that is an “electioneering communication” or for speech that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a candidate. 2 U. S. C. §441b. An electioneering communication is “any broadcast, cable, or satellite communication” that “refers to a clearly identified candidate for Federal office” and is made within 30 days of a primary election, §434(f)(3)(A), and that is “publicly distributed,” 11 CFR §100.29(a)(2), which in “the case of a candidate for nomination for President … means” that the communication “[c]an be received by 50,000 or more persons in a State where a primary election … is being held within 30 days,” §100.29(b)(3)(ii). In January 2008, appellant Citizens United, a nonprofit corporation, released a documentary (hereinafter Hillary) critical of then-Senator Hillary Clinton, a candidate for her party’s Presidential nomination. Anticipating that it would make Hillary available on cable television through video-on-demand within 30 days of primary elections, Citizens United produced television ads to run on broadcast and cable television. Concerned about possible civil and criminal penalties for violating §441b, it sought declaratory and injunctive relief, arguing that (1) §441b is unconstitutional as applied to Hillary; and (2) BCRA’s disclaimer, disclosure, and reporting requirements, BCRA §§201 and 311, were unconstitutional as applied to Hillary and the ads.

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(Slip Opinion) OCTOBER TERM, 2010 1 Syllabus NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337. SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES Syllabus ARIZONA FREE ENTERPRISE CLUB’S FREEDOM CLUB PAC ET AL. v. BENNETT, SECRETARY OF STATE OF ARIZONA, ET AL. CERTIORARI […]

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Cite as: 567 U. S. ____ (2012) 1 Per Curiam SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES AMERICAN TRADITION PARTNERSHIP, INC., FKA WESTERN TRADITION PARTNERSHIP, INC., ET AL. v. STEVE BULLOCK, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MONTANA, ET AL. ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF MONTANA No. 11–1179. Decided June 25, 2012 PER CURIAM. A Montana state law provides that a “corporation may not make . . . an expenditure in connection with a candi- date or a political committee that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party.” Mont. Code Ann. §13– 35–227(1) (2011). The Montana […]

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The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA), as amended by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), imposes two types of limits on campaign contributions. Base limits restrict how much money a donor may contribute to a particular candidate or committee while aggregate limits restrict how much money a donor may contribute in total to all candidates or committees. 2 U. S. C. §441a. In the 2011–2012 election cycle, appellant McCutcheon contributed to 16 different federal candidates, complying with the base limits applicable to each. He alleges that the aggregate limits prevented him from contributing to 12 additional candidates and to a number of noncandidate political committees. He also alleges that he wishes to make similar contributions in the future, all within the base limits. McCutcheon and appellant Republican National Committee filed a complaint before a three-judge District Court, asserting that the aggregate limits were unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

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(Slip Opinion) OCTOBER TERM, 2014 1 Syllabus NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337. SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES Syllabus WILLIAMS-YULEE v. FLORIDA BAR CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA No. 13–1499. Argued January 20, 2015—Decided April 29, […]

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