February 01, 2010

Ron Jacobs comments on Citizens United decision in NLJ, WBJ

2 min

Venable partner Ron Jacobs was quoted in recent stories published in the National Law Journal and Washington Business Journal about the impact the Supreme Court’s January 22 ruling in the Citizens United case will have on upcoming elections.

In the decision, the court held that that direct spending on campaign advertising for-profit and nonprofit corporations is protected speech under the First Amendment. The court overturned past rulings that prohibited corporations or unions from buying ads expressly advocating the election or defeat of political candidates, and reaffirmed a ruling that threw out a ban on corporate-funded issue ads that mention a candidate in the weeks just prior to an election.

"One of the key themes in the decision is that the campaign finance laws have become overly convoluted and complicated...As a result, such laws silence permissible speech because they are so complicated," Jacobs told the National Law Journal.

While organizations will no longer "have to try to figure out when issue advocacy becomes candidate advocacy," Jacobs told the Washington Business Journal, political and shareholder pressure could limit corporate spending on election ads.

Jacobs pointed out that President Obama is working with Congress on ways to counteract the Supreme Court's ruling, including passing legislation requiring shareholders to approve corporate spending on political activities. Even without legislation, large shareholders such as pension plans already are pressuring corporations to not spend money on political activities, he said.