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Senate committee hears testimony on limiting corporate campaign spending

[JURIST] The US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] held a hearing [materials; video] Wednesday on the effects of the recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [opinion, PDF], which eased restrictions [JURIST report] on political campaign spending by corporations. The hearing, entitled "We the People? Corporate Spending in American Elections after Citizens United," did not focus on any specific bill, but rather on general legislative efforts [JURIST report] to limit the ruling's effects. Committee chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] said [testimony] that the "Citizens United decision turns the idea of Government of, by and for the people on its head." Witness Bradley Smith, law professor and chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics [advocacy website], countered [testimony, PDF] that "the Court's decision in Citizens United is one of the most clearly correct decisions of the Court's term," and that "Congress need not 'fix' this sound decision."

In January, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [Cornell LII backgrounder] to ease restrictions on political campaign spending by corporations. The court was asked to consider Section 203 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act [text, PDF], which prohibited corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make independent expenditures for speech defined as an "electioneering communication" or for speech expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate. President Barack Obama sharply criticized [JURIST report] the decision in his State of the Union Address [transcript] in January. Obama warned of the increased potential for powerful interest groups, both foreign and domestic, to wield excessive influence over American elections and called for bipartisan support of legislation to counteract the decision. The decision has caused a deep partisan divide [CNN report] over the topic, with Democratic officials largely opposing the decision, and Republican officials mostly in support.

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