By Katie Kaufman
Katie Kaufman is a sophomore at Bowdoin College studying Government and Legal Studies.
A lawsuit by Citizens United, the conservative lobbying group of the landmark Supreme Court case in 2010, has revived the debate surrounding the transparency of campaign contributions. The state of Colorado is requiring Citizens United to publically disclose contributors to its new attack documentary, Rocky Mountain Heist. According to Colorado’s state constitution, published media involving political candidates must be accompanied by submitted campaign finance reports, which essentially requires groups to disclose the source of financial contributors. 
Theodore B. Olson, a lawyer for Citizens United, argues the “First Amendment prohibits the government from discriminating among speakers based on their status, viewpoint, identity, or message.” According to Citizens United, this law violates the First Amendment because it requires “disclosures based on the speaker’s identity.” According to this Colorado law, the press is exempt from such disclosures. Citizens United wants either be given this press exemption or the exemption to be removed completely. 
“The Supreme Court has repeatedly made clear that it is unconstitutional to discriminate among speakers based on their status, viewpoint, identity, or message,” said Citizens United President David Bossie. “Colorado’s disclosure and disclaimer requirements cannot be reconciled with this settled First Amendment principle because those requirements burden the speech of Citizens United but do not apply to the traditional print and broadcast media.” 
US District Judge Brooke Jackson ruled against Citizens United. He determined the identity of contributors “who earmark their donations for the purpose of funding the independent expenditure or the electioneering communication” must be disclosed. He addressed the topic of press exemption, stating the media would have to comply with the law if a newspaper aired a film, which favored, or targeted, a certain electoral candidate. Judge Jackson ultimately ruled that Citizens United must disclose its sources of funding should it air this documentary.
Citizens United won a landmark case, Citizens United vs. FEC (2010), which also dealt with the topic of campaign funding. Citizens United also attempted to air a film, which attacked Hillary Clinton, within thirty days of the Democratic primaries in 2008.  According to the FEC, Citizens United was attempting to publish an advertisement, which directly aimed to affect Clinton in the upcoming primaries. The FEC considered this film a violation of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA). Citizens United responded by asserting that the film was a documentary not shown over broadcast, which would make the BCRA inapplicable in that situation. 
The case made it to the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of Citizens United. In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “Congress may not bar corporations and unions from using their own money to make independent expenditures to support or oppose candidates for office.” The government cannot limit the spending of non-profit groups for political campaigns, according to the First Amendment. Although the Court ruled corporations could spend without limits on campaigns, it qualify that decision by stating that voters deserved to know the identity of contributors. 
Just two weeks ago, Senate Republicans shot down a constitutional amendment that would overturn the 2010 decision. Although the public expressed an overwhelming disgust with the ruling that allows essentially limitless political donations by corporations, every Republican senator voted against the amendment.  Republican Senator Ted Cruz supported the overwhelming GOP position on this issue, charging that this was an attempt to “repeal the free speech provisions of the First Amendment.” In reality, this debate surrounds the rationality of the Supreme Court’s decision that unrestricted spending by corporations to elections is legitimate. 
Citizens United intends to appeal the decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. This appeal will arouse further debate over the idea of freedom of the press and exactly to whom (or what) that designation extends. This case, which continues to expose the rising importance of the press in the digital era, is revealing blurred lines surrounding the definition of legitimate media.
 Fed Judge: No press exemption for Citizens United in Colorado. The Colorado Independent. http://www.coloradoindependent.com/149409/colorado-judge-no-press-exemption-for-citizens-united. Last accessed September 30, 2014.
 Citizens United Vows Appeal After Losing Disclosure-Rules Case. The National Law Journal. http://www.nationallawjournal.com/legaltimes/home/id=1202671038338/Citizens-United-Vows-Appeal-After-Losing-DisclosureRules-Case?mcode=1202617074964&curindex=0&back=NLJ&slreturn=20140830113149. Last accessed September 30, 2014.
 Federal judge rejects Citizens United push to avoid disclosure laws. The Denver Post. http://blogs.denverpost.com/thespot/2014/09/22/federal-judge-rejects-citizens-united-push-avoid-disclosure-rules/113070/. Last accessed September 30, 2014.
 Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. ScotusBlog. http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/citizens-united-v-federal-election-commission/. Last accessed September 30, 2014.
 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. OpenCongress. http://www.opencongress.org/wiki/Bipartisan_Campaign_Reform_Act_of_2002. Last accessed September 30, 2014.
 The Senate Tried to Overturn ‘Citizens United’ Today. Guess What Stopped Them? The Nation. http://www.thenation.com/blog/181590/senate-tried-overturn-citizens-united-today-guess-what-stopped-them. Last accessed September 30, 2014.
 Sen. Cruz Rejects Democrats Attempts to Repeal Free Speech Protections. US Senator For Texas Ted Cruz. http://www.cruz.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=1704. Last accessed September 30, 2014.