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Is money speech?

In 2010, the Supreme Court decided in the landmark case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission to deregulate campaign donations made by corporations and labor unions. This decision allowed these organizations to spend unlimited amounts on issue advertising and contributions to political organizations. Advocates of unregulated campaign spending argue that spending money on campaigns is protected under the Constitution as the right to exercise free speech. Opponents state that politicians are inevitably indebted to these large organizations when they accept donations, potentially leading to corruption and unethical behaviors within the government. Is unlimited spending by large political donors constitutional or does it impede fair and ethical politics?


Understanding Campaign Finance Law

Additional resources to think about

MetroFocus: "Dark Money"
MetroFocus talks to the filmmaker and journalist duo behind the Dark Money documentary about the journey to track down large hidden campaign donors in the political system.

As Secret Money Surges In Elections, The FEC Considers A Small Step For Transparency
This NPR article investigates how after a wave of undisclosed political spending, the Federal Election Commission is starting to develop a transparency rule for political groups that advertise online.

Citizens United Court Case Was A Fight Against Censorship, Bossie Says
NPR discusses the effects of campaign finance law with David Bossie, president and chairman of the conservative advocacy group Citizens United.

Citizens United v. FEC | BRI's Homework Help
This video from the Bill of Rights Institute offers a background on the Citizens United v. FEC decision, the history of the FEC, and campaign finance reform.

High Court Takes Another Stab At Campaign Finance
This article from NPR talks about the 2011 Supreme Court case McComish v. Bennett, which deals with a different kind of campaign finance rule in Arizona.

Influence of Big Money | Brennan Center for Justice
A series of articles and resources from the Brennan Center about the current realities and potentially negative effects of undisclosed large campaign donations.

Stark New Evidence on How Money Shapes America's Elections
This article from the Institute for New Economic Thinking explores the results of a study on political money in Congressional elections.

Former Justice Stevens: Campaign money isn't speech
PBS NewsHour reports on the statements against unregulated campaign donations made by former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

Money in elections doesn't mean what you think it does
A University of Florida assistant professor of political science presents research that argues that large political campaign donations are essential for our democracy.


Who created this message?

  • What kind of “text” is it?
  • How similar or different is it to others of the same genre?
  • What are the various elements (building blocks) that make up the whole?


What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

  • What do you notice (about the way the message is constructed)? 
  • What’s the emotional appeal?
  • What makes it seem “real?”
  • What's the emotional appeal? Persuasive devices used?

How might different people understand this message differently from me?

  • How many other interpretations could there be?
  • How could we hear about them?
  • How can you explain the different responses?

What lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?

  • What type of person is the reader/watcher/listener invited to identify with?
  • What ideas or perspectives are left out?
  • How would you find what’s missing?
  • What judgments or statements are made about how we treat other people?


Why is this message being sent?

  • What's being sold in this message? What's being told? 
  • Who is served by or  benefits from the message
    – the public?
    – private interests?
    – individuals?
    – institutions?


Is money speech?

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