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by Vault Law Editors | September 10, 2009

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The Supreme Court does not (yet) allow cameras, but C-Span has the audio of yesterday’s oral re-arguments of Citizen United v. FEC.  The case examines the constitutional basis of campaign finance law—specifically whether the movie the FEC properly classified “Hillary: The Movie” as an "electioneering communication" under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. Citizens United, a nonprofit corporation, accepts funds from other corporations; the FEC concluded that the movie fell under the law's restrictions on corporate political spending.  (Today, The Wall Street Journal runs a handy primer on the case.)

In addition to the profound First Amendment implications, yesterday’s arguments featured a couple of notable “firsts”: the debut  of Elena Kagan, the new Solicitor General, and, of course, the first appearance of Justice Sotomayor on the bench as one of the Nine.

Most pundits think the smart money is on a broad decision that amounts to, as SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston puts it, “a sweeping declaration of independence in politics for companies and advocacy groups formed as corporations.”  Denniston also notes that the Justices staked out familiar ground in the back-and-forth with Kagan and the plaintiff’s (Ted Olson et al.) lawyers:

From all appearances, not one of the nine Justices — including the newest Justice, Sonia Sotomayor — appeared to move away from what their positions had been expected in advance to be. In her first argument, Sotomayor fervently joined in the effort to keep any resulting decision narrow — seemingly, the minority position but one she had been assumed to hold.

                                     -posted by brian

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