Citizens United is a conservative 501(c)(4) non-profit organization in the United States started in 1988 with major funding from the billionaire Koch family. It brought a U.S. Supreme Court case known as Citizens United v. FEC, which greatly loosened rules governing campaign finance. Its current president and chairman is David Bossie.
Citizens United's stated mission is to restore the United States government to "citizens' control," seeking to "reassert the traditional American values of limited government, freedom of enterprise, strong families, and national sovereignty and security." It is a right wing political advocacy group organized under Section 501(c)4 of the federal tax code - donations are not tax deductible. To fulfill this mission, Citizens United produces television commercials, web advertisements, and documentary films.
David Bossie has been its president since 2000 but has taken a leave of absence to be deputy campaign manager of Donald Trump's campaign for President of the United States. Its offices are on Pennsylvania Avenue in the Capitol Hill area of Washington, D.C.
The Political Action Committee (PAC) Citizens United was founded in 1988 by Floyd Brown, a longtime Washington political consultant, with major funding from the Koch family (industrialists who own “the second largest privately owned company in the United States”). The group promotes corporate interests, socially conservative causes and candidates who advance their mission.
Citizens United is known for its support of conservatives in politics. The group produced a television advertisement that reveals several legislative actions taken by John McCain, which aired on Fox News Channel. On October 2, 2006, in reaction to revelations of a cover-up of inappropriate communications between Republican Congressman Mark Foley and United States House of Representatives Page, Citizens United president David Bossie called on Dennis Hastert to resign over his role in covering up the scandal.
Citizens United campaigned against Michael Moore's 2004 film Fahrenheit 9/11, advocating for government limits on how much advertising the film received. It simultaneously made advertisements attacking the film, and produced a film called Celsius 41.11, meant to counter Moore's film.
Citizens United's best known campaign centered around a documentary film it produced that was highly critical of Hillary Clinton. It has also produced and screened advertisements attacking other Democrats, including Bill Clinton, John Kerry, and Al Gore. In the 1988 US presidential election, Citizens United ran an ad that used Willie Horton to attack Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis. The ad was described as racist by commentators such as Mother Jones.
In 2016 the Donald Trump presidential campaign enlisted Citizens United president David Bossie as deputy campaign manager. During the campaign, Bossie made regular television appearances on behalf of the Trump campaign. Bossie is a close friend and longtime acquaintance of Trump administration officials Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, having introduced Bannon to Trump in 2011.
Citizens United Productions, headed by president David Bossie, has released 25 feature-length documentaries. The following is a list of films produced by Citizens United Productions.
Citizens United was the plaintiff in a Supreme Court case that began as a challenge to various statutory provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), known as the "McCain-Feingold" law. The case revolved around the documentary Hillary: The Movie, which was produced by Citizens United. Under the McCain-Feingold law, a federal court in Washington D.C. ruled that Citizens United would be barred from advertising its film. The case (08-205, 558 U.S. 50 (2010)) was heard in the United States Supreme Court on March 24, 2009. During oral argument, the government argued that under existing precedents, it had the power under the Constitution to prohibit the publication of books and movies if they were made or sold by corporations. After that hearing, the Court requested re-argument specifically to address whether deciding the case required the Court to reconsider those earlier decisions in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and McConnell v. FEC. The case was re-argued on September 9. On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court overturned the provision of McCain-Feingold barring corporations and unions from paying for political ads made independently of candidate campaigns.
A dissenting opinion by Justice Stevens was joined by Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, and Justice Sotomayor. It concurred in the Court's decision to sustain BCRA's disclosure provisions, but dissented from the principal holding of the majority opinion. The 90-page dissent argued that the Court's ruling "threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. The path it has taken to reach its outcome will... do damage to this institution." The dissent also argued that the Court's holding that BCRA §203 was facially unconstitutional was ruling on a question not brought before it by the litigants, and so claimed that the majority "changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law." Stevens concluded his dissent with:
At bottom, the Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self-government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.
In September 2010, Americans United for Life Action — a 501(c)(4) affiliated with Americans United for Life — ran radio ads advocating that incumbent Members of Congress John Boccieri, Chris Carney, and Baron Hill be defeated. News reports at the time indicated that the ads were "among the first ads to capitalize" on the decision.
In 2010, Move to Amend and Free Speech For People were launched to build support to amend the Constitution to declare: 1) Corporations are Not People; and 2) Money is Not Free Speech. In 2012 Ben Cohen founded Stamp Stampede, a massive sustained protest that encourages people to rubber stamp messages such as "Not To Be Used For Bribing Politicians" on dollars. So far over 50,000 have joined the protest.