Plaintiff in Citizens United case forms a Super PAC


Citizens United, whose court challenge to rules barring political spending by corporations has led to far-reaching changes in the campaign finance landscape, has formed its own Super PAC, allowing it to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.

Paperwork for the new committee — Citizens United Super PAC LLC — was received by the Federal Election Commission on Saturday Friday and posted on its website this morning.

In Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in January 2010 that prohibitions on independent expenditures by corporations and unions are unconstitutional. The case grew out of Citizens United's plans to release a documentary about Hillary Clinton on a video-on-demand service, which would have been prohibited under federal election laws. In the court's opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that under the ban, "speech would be suppressed in the realm where its necessity is most evident: in the public dialogue preceding a real election."

A subsequent opinion by the D.C. Circuit Court, in v. FEC, allowed for the creation of independent-expenditure-only committees, which have come to be known as Super PACs. This is the type of committee Citizens United has now formed.

In the SpeechNow decision, the court wrote, "Given this analysis from Citizens United, we must conclude that the government has no anti-corruption interest in limiting contributions to an independent expenditure group such as SpeechNow."

Since last July, when an Advisory Opinion by the FEC set out the guidelines for forming independent-expenditure-only committees, 94 such groups have been formed, and 46 have reported spending money — about $60 million in the 2010 election cycle.