Citizens United Lead Counsel On The Decision

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Here's a statement from Theodore Olson, lead counsel for Citizens United (the plaintiff in today's campaign finance case) on the Supreme Court's ruling in his client's favor. Olson is also lead counsel in another prominent political case going on right now: the federal-court challenge to Prop. 8, the California gay-marriage ban.

The legal team included fellow Gibson Dunn partner Matthew McGill, as well as Citizens United in-house counsel Michael Boos, Gibson Dunn associates Amir Tayrani and Ryan Watson, and Citizens United's Justin Herring*. Here's Olson on the case, in a statement sent via e-mail by Gibson Dunn:

The Supreme Court's decision today is a victory for the First Amendment and the right of all Americans to participate in the political process.  Speech about our government and candidates for elective office lies at the heart of the First Amendment, and the Court's decision vindicates the right of individuals to engage in core political speech by banding together to make their voices heard.  

McCain-Feingold impermissibly restricted the right of individuals joined together in the corporate form or in a union to engage in political speech when it mattered most--in the period immediately preceding an election.  The Court recognized that permitting widespread participation in the marketplace of ideas will invigorate political discourse, promote public debate on important issues, and, ultimately, strengthen the very foundations of our democracy.  

The decisions that the Court today overruled rested on the faulty premise that political speech can be restricted in order to prevent corporate money from "distorting" political discourse.  In fact, the vast majority of corporations are either nonprofit advocacy groups--like Citizens United--or small businesses.  Far from "distorting" the political process, the speech of these corporations reflects the views of their members or the entrepreneurial individuals who formed the corporation.  Permitting these individuals to have a voice in the political process adds an important perspective to the public debate and enables individuals of limited means to band together to counterbalance the political speech of the super-rich.  McCain-Feingold silenced those speakers, and, as the Court concluded, was therefore impossible to reconcile with the First Amendment.

*UPDATE: Justin Herring was not a member of Citizens United's in-house legal team, as originally stated in this post. He was employed by Gibson Dunn.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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