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MU professors to discuss Supreme Court decision on campaign spending

Monday, September 13, 2010 | 6:36 p.m. CDT; updated 11:13 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 15, 2010

COLUMBIA — Are corporations people? That's the question the League of Women Voters of Columbia-Boone County hopes to discuss during a Wednesday forum held in conjunction with Constitution Day.

The forum, called "If You Prick Them, Do They Bleed? Corporations as Persons," will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the commission chambers of the Roger B. Wilson Boone County Government Center, 801 E. Walnut St.

Refreshments will be available at 6:30 p.m.

Panelists will include professors Paul Litton, Richard Reuben and Christina Wells of the MU School of Law, as well as professor Marvin Overby of the political science department.

They will be discussing the effect of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a case in which the Supreme Court decided in a 5-4 ruling that the First Amendment prevents the government from limiting campaign spending by corporations, nonprofits and advocacy groups. The Supreme Court’s interpretation treats money, specifically campaign donations, as a form of protected speech.

The case, which was decided Jan. 21, weakens the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act passed in 2002 and sponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russ Feingold, D-Wis. It's commonly known as the McCain-Feingold Bill.

Linda Kaiser, president of the League of Women Voters of Columbia-Boone County, said the forum will be useful because it covers an important topic with which many people are unfamiliar.

“The Supreme Court’s decision overturned years of precedents. Huge amounts of money can now alter the process of elections, and we are concerned that it will have a negative impact on democracy,” Kaiser said.

The national chapter of the League of Women Voters of the United States filed an amicus curiae brief siding with the Federal Election Commission in December 2009.

The forum is a yearly event in conjunction with Constitution Day, which is Sept. 17, the date the Constitution was signed in 1787.

This will be the fourth straight year that the league will host a panel relevant to Constitution Day. In previous years, discussions have centered around the role of privacy in the Constitution as well as the most important constitutional rights.

 


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