Citizens United is a conservative non-profit organization that produced a documentary movie highly critical of then-candidate Hillary Clinton. The group wanted to distribute the move via video-on-demand technology, and run ads promoting the movie. The FEC ruled that they could not, under the electioneering communications sections of McCain-Feingold, air commercials promoting the movie or distribute the movie via video-on-demand technology. Citizens United appealed, and in June 2009 the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would re-hear oral arguments in the case specifically on the issue of whether they should overturn Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, a 1990 decision permitting bans on independent expenditures in campaigns by corporations and unions. Oral arguments were held on September 9, 2009.
On January 21, 2010 in an unusual special session, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Citizens United. It is a transformative which restores the First Amendment rights of businesses, unions and nonprofit advocacy groups to participate in campaigns.
It’s an extraordinary win for free political speech rights by speakers of all stripes.