Alumni Short

Cornell Law Faculty Members Join Alumni-Led Legal Advocacy Program to Overturn Citizens United

Ithaca, NEW YORK, October 9, 2013

The effects of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United v. FEC were widespread, causing a ripple effect throughout the American political landscape. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that political spending is protected free speech and that both unions and corporations were free to spend money on supporting (or denouncing) a candidate.

In a response to this 2010 decision, a non-partisan organization called Free Speech for People was co-founded by Jeff Clements ’88.

The organization’s goal? Overturn Citizens United.

In an effort to ramp up their fight, Free Speech for People has launched a new Legal Advocacy Program. According to the organization, the initiative “seeks to restore Constitutional jurisprudence based on human, rather than corporate rights, and republican citizenship rather than unlimited money in politics.” The initiative has a strong Cornell presence, as Professors Steve Shiffrin, the Charles Frank Reavis Sr. Professor of Law, and Gerald Torres, the Marc and Beth Goldberg Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law—in addition to alums Cyrus Mehri ’88 and Lisa Graves ’94—will be working together.

"I genuinely believe in their cause,” says Shiffrin of why he joined the initiative. “[Citizens United] compromises equality and undermines democracy.”

“I think they’re an extremely important group,” says Shiffrin of Free Speech for People. “They work to introduce bills. They’ve been working on a constitutional amendment. Their approach is the most sensible. I’m pleased they’re joining their legislative efforts with litigation efforts.”

For Clements, the issue of granting too much power to corporations has a crucial importance for Americans. Last year, he authored a book entitled Corporations Are Not People: Why They Have More Rights Than You Do and What You Can Do About It. Throughout his career, Clements has been an impassioned advocate for the general public, including a tenure as Chief of the Public Protection & Advocacy Bureau in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. In a press release, Clements said that Free Speech for People’s new initiative is another step in the fight for equality.

“Americans across the political spectrum know that ‘corporate rights’ and unlimited money in our elections are wrong, and are coming together to ensure that Citizens United will not stand,” said Clements.

“We are grateful to see so many outstanding legal experts and jurists join in this work to renew our democracy of free and equal citizens.”

—Andrew Clark