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Coffee House Debates: Is Citizens United Good for American Democracy?
February 3, 2015
Does unlimited political spending help or hinder democracy? The landmark Supreme Court Case, Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, in which the United States Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional any government restrictions on political spending by nonprofit corporations, has deeply divided the nation. Some argue that the decision protects the First Amendment: anyone, including corporations, should be allowed to exercise their free speech rights through political spending. Others argue that the very spirit of the First Amendment—free speech for all, regardless of class and income—is undermined when corporations can spend exponentially more on political speech than the average citizen. On February 3rd, two legal experts—Ian Millhiser from the Center for American Progress and Hans von Spakovsky from the Heritage Foundation—debated Citizens United and its implications on the role of money in politics and the nature of free speech in America. Magistrate Judge Hugh W. Brenneman served as moderator for this debate.