Brief the landmark United States Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
Citizens United v Federal Election Commission (2010) Decision 5-4 Facts: Citizens United, a nonprofit organization whom receives funding from some for-profit organizations, released Hilary: The Movie in January of 2008. The documentary was about then-senator Hilary Clinton, who had recently announced that she would be running for president. The organization predicted that the movie would soon be available on cable television or video-on-demand, and portrayed Clinton as unfit for presidency. The Citizens United organization expected backlash from the Federal Election Commission, as they violated the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. Therefore, Citizens United initiated legal action against the FEC claiming that Section 203, 201, and 311 did not apply to Hilary. After a three-judge court ruled in favor of the FEC, Citizens United appealed to the Supreme Court. Issue: May Congress, pursuant to its right to delegate its authority to the Federal Election Commission to regulate elections, allow regulations on corporate campaign finance without violating the 1st amendment right to freedom of speech? [No] Rule: The First Amendment prohibits Congress from banning the freedom of speech. “The First Amendment is written in the terms of speech, not speakers. Its text offers no foothold for excluding any category of speaker” [665:1]. Previously, the court has recognized that corporations also have a right to the First Amendments protection. Section 441b of the U.S. code “makes it a felony for all corporations—including nonprofit advocacy corporations—either to expressly advocate the election or defeat of candidates or to broadcast electioneering communications within 30 days of a primary election and 60 days of a general election” [662:1]. Application: Citizens United is a multi-million dollar PAC, and the issue at hand is whether or not this corporation can use its general treasury funds to promote Hilary: The Movie during the 30-day period before the general election. Under the BCRA, Citizens United could use their money to promote the movie however and whenever they wanted, just not in the 30 days before the election. This measure was taken in order to prevent unfair elections, not to ensure a particular viewpoint or ban any particular speech. Therefore, there is no subsequent ban on any speech in this case. However, “the First Amendment stands against attempts to disfavor certain subjects or viewpoints” [662:2]. The court has recognized that corporations also can reserve the right to freedom of speech. “Under the rationale of these precedents, political speech does not lose First Amendment protections simply because its source is a corporation” [663:1]. Section 441b makes it a felony for a corporation to “expressly advocate the election or defeat of candidates” in the 30-day period before a primary election. This would inherently restrict a corporation from expressing their freedom of speech during this 30 day period. Therefore “section 441b’s prohibition on corporate independent expenditures is thus a ban on speech”[662:1]. Conclusion: The original ruling of the 3-judge court was overturned and sections of the BCRA were chanced in accordance with the decision. Also, some precedents were overturned.
Briefly explain natural law theory and its importance in American democracy.
Political theorists explore the purpose of government, they explore how and why mankind comes together to form societies, and from that create government structures. For theorists, the reasons for these things lie in what they perceive to be the state of nature, and the state of humankind before society. From these perceptions on the nature of man come inferences on what underlies the drive of mankind towards the creation of societies, and what pretenses in nature caused societies to look like they do. Among all of these inferences is a notion that humans have a “natural right” to things, and that nature is what grants him these rights. Many describe these rights a stemming from nature and morality, and others believe they are granted by a deity or higher power. Natural law is the assumption that rights assumed by nature to man should be protected, and man enters into society for such protection. However, it is debated which came first, natural law or natural rights? Or can neither rights nor laws be derived from one another but only exist together? In conjunction with natural law is positive law, which are the laws given and regulated by man and government and often for the benefit of the government, rather than by nature. Some argue that positive law is just the codification of the guiding force of natural law, and that positive laws and rights only exist to further codify natural rights. Positive law as an extension of natural law is the legitimizing force behind government structure and power. According to this reasoning, in order to protect the natural rights of the individuals, the institution that protects these rights must be protected as well, thus encompassing positive and civil law that does not implicitly protect natural rights. Natural law can be analyzed in several facets of American government, especially in its revolutionary years and foundations. The idea of inalienable rights is foundational in the study of American government and American law, strongly linking natural law as a foundation for American framers.
Briefly explain and describe the buildup that lead to the United States decision to enter World War I.
Prior to the destabilization of Europe's system of allies and the beginning of WWI, the United States had practiced an isolationist world view, rarely getting involved in Europe's problems. However, the United States had very valuable trade partnerships there, particularly in Great Britain. After the death of Franz Ferdinand and the subsequent declarations of war made between the allied powers (Great Britain, France, Russia) and the central powers (Germany, Austrian-Hungarian Empire, Ottoman Empire), the US gave large loans to France and Britain. In 1915 Germany declared the waters around the UK an active war zone, meaning that any vessels that flew the flag of an enemy would be attacked. On April 22, 1915 the German Embassy warned American citizen against traveling on vessels to Britain. Less than a month later on May 22, German submarines sunk the RMS Lusitania. 128 Americans on board died and the US view of Germany grew increasingly negative, most people viewing them as the aggressor in Europe. While the US kept a formally neutral stance on the war, American banks granted wartime financing to France and Britain. All things considered, Woodrow Wilson campaigned for his reelection on the catchphrase "he kept us out of war" and won. However, shortly after his reelection, Germany sought the military alliance of Mexico via the Zimmerman Telegram, and shortly after the Germans sunk several American ships. This prompted congress to formally declare war on Germany on April 4, 1917 with a strong bipartisan majority.