The Supreme Court’s decision to lift campaign-finance restrictions on corporations has sparked mixed reactions in construction circles. Some contractors’ organizations hail the Jan. 21 ruling as a free-speech victory that will give more groups a stronger political voice. But labor unions and non-profit advocacy groups worry the decision will unleash a wave of corporate spending that could sway election results.
The high court’s 5-4 ruling in the case, Citizens United v. Federal Communications Commission, permits corporations to spend unlimited amounts on political advertising 60 days before an election. It strikes down portions of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, also known as the McCain-Feingold law, for its Senate architects. The case centered on a documentary by Citizens United, a non-profit corporation, that was critical of then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote that corporations’ free-speech rights are no different than those of individuals. He said prohibitions against corporations’ political speech by other corporations equates to censorship. The ruling’s scope appears to reach beyond corporations and apply to unions and advocacy groups that set aside funds for political ads, sources say.