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Southern Oregon University

PS 399:  Citizens United v FEC
CRN:  4229
Taylor 26:  Tu/Th 3:30-5:20

Winter, 2013

 Paul Pavlich
Office: TA 120A (Hours: M 2-4, W 12-2 & F 11:30-12:30)




OBJECTIVES:   In this course we will examine the Supreme Court’s (notorious?) Citizens United v FEC decision.  Initially we will simply try to read and understand the actual dispute and decision.  Then we will break it down into is pieces for more detailed analysis.   More importantly we will try to use the Citizens United decision to develop a better understanding of political participation and democracy in the United States.  This will include a coda about electoral campaign regulations and finance that transcends Citizens United.

TEXT:  There is no text for the class.  All reading assignments will be linked to the class web site.  Most are edited primary sources.  Assignments must read carefully and perhaps several times in order to capture their full significance. 

PEDAGOGY:  Class will be conducted in a combination of lectures, classroom discussions, and "Socratic" dialogues. For those unfamiliar with Socratic method, students are called upon to answer a series of questions raised by or about the reading for the day. This process enhances student capacity to recognize and analyze questions and issues in forms other than those presented by the readings.

STUDENT EVALUATION:  Students will be evaluated on the basis of three take home exercises (30-35 points each), and as well as participation in Socratic Dialogues.   The exercises are to be typed and will be accompanied by detailed instructions.  All will be problem solving type problems encouraging students to think critically through a problem. You will be asked to analyze the issues triggered by the problem, identifying various ways to frame and solve the problem.

For the Socratic Dialogue component, students will be required to respond orally to a series of questions drawn from the reading for the day.  Each day two or three students will be expected to take the lead in discussing that reading assignment.  These students in effect think out loud and teach their peers the material for the day. Each student is expected to become one of the principal participants in four or five class discussions during the term.  Students, who fail to participate, or participate in a grossly deficient manner, will lose points earned elsewhere in the class.


Here are some cautionary notes regarding grading for this class:

(A) Students should keep a copy of all written exercises. The burden of loss of any missing written work will rest entirely on the student.

(B) Class grades will be assigned based upon a rough curve comparing point totals accumulated by students over the entire term. No individual exam will be assigned a letter grade. Rather you will be given a point total. After each exam, students will be shown two "curves" enabling them (1) to compare their point totals with others for the discrete exam and (2) compare their cumulative point totals for all exams given by that point in the term.

(C) Other than as discussed in connection with class participation, class attendance is not considered when evaluating students. You will be treated as mature individuals, capable of choosing responsibly whether to attend class on a given day. Students should recognize that class meetings also serve as a medium for communicating to them about the class. Information concerning the class, not contained in the syllabus, is generally communicated at one class meeting and noted on the class website, but not repeated elsewhere. This may include additional reading assignments, handouts, exercise information, modifications in the syllabus and "Socratic Dialogue" participation. Students bear the entire responsibility to ensure that they understand the requirements for the class by either attending regularly or making other arrangements to ascertain how the course is moving.

(D) The principles espoused in the SOU policy on academic dishonesty are applicable to this class.

If you are in need of academic support because of a documented disability (whether it is psychiatric, learning, mobility, health-related, or sensory), you may be eligible for academic accommodations through disability services for students. Contact Disability Services for Students; Director, DSS; 552-6213; or schedule an appointment in person at the ACCESS Center, Stevenson Union, Lower Level.



(Subject to change with very little notice)
An online legal dictionary is available here


January 8 Course overview

January 10-15 Introduction to Citizens United.   Read edited versions of the majority and dissenting opinions of Justices Kennedy and Stevens.  At this point we are just trying to ascertain what the issues are in the case.

READ:  Kennedy majority opinion; Stevens dissenting opinion

January 17-22 Background Law for Citizens United.  The opinions in Citizens United  are built upon a short passage in the First Amendment of the U. S.  Constitution and several decisions of the United States Supreme Court attempting to give meaning and clarity to it in the context of campaign finance regulation.  We will read brief summaries of many of those cases to better understand the jurisprudence of Citizens United. 


READ:  Background cases

January 18 First Exercise Distributed,  Due  January 24 (30 points)

January 24-29  Corporations and the Constitution.  Do corporations have rights under the Constitution?  What are the arguments in favor or against?   Should it depend upon the kind of corporation?  Should it depend upon the kind of Constitutional right?

READ:  Dartmouth College v Woodward; Paul v Virginia; Santa Clara v So Pacific; Pembina Consolidated v Penn; Connecticut General v Johnson

January 31 Facial v As Applied challenges and the role of the Court.  This day follows up the previous two where we investigate the rights (under the Constitution) of corporations and now ask, whether the Supremes in Citizens United maybe over reached.  That is was the decision correct, but for the wrong reason?  Did the Supremes throw the baby out with the bathwater?  Was the federal statute unconstitutional as applied to Citizens United in these circumstances but within the power of Congress as to other entities?

READ:  Facial v Applied analyses from Citizens United

February 7-12 Political speech or electoral corruption.  May Congress (and the FEC) limit the electioneering behavior of some groups because they will they wield too much influence on the policy making process subsequent to the election?

READ:  Anti-corruption analyses from Citizens United

Bauer:  A Glimpse into the Future?  Judge Kollar-Kotelly's View of Congressional Authority to Regulate Political Money

February 12-14  Preventing distortion of candidate dialog and the First Amendment.  May Congress (and the FEC) circumscribe or inhibit the political speech of some to ensure that other voices are heard or not marginalized?

READ:  Anti-Distortion analyses from Citizen United

February 14-19  The interests of shareholders:  Corporate law, election law and the First Amendment.  May Congress (and the FEC) circumscribe the political speech of corporations in order to protect the interest of corporate shareholders who may not agree with the message of corporate management?

READ:  Shareholder protection analyses from Citizen United (plus a primer on corporate duty to shareholders)

February 14 Second Exercise Distributed, Due NOON FRIDAY, February 22 (35 points) Note change!

PART III:  Issues arising in the aftermath of Citizens United

February 26-28  Fashioning a set of rules for managing federal elections:  The FEC as manager of federal elections.  Can a federal agency be trusted to implement and enforce campaign finance regulations?

READ:  FEC,  About the FEC,   FEC Brochure on Coordination Communication and Independent Expenditures,
11 CFR Part 109:  FEC regulations on Coordinated and Independent Expenditures

March  5-7  Campaign support disclosure rules before and after Citizens United:  Is the right of association more important than full disclosure?

READ:  Summaries of privacy of political association cases
Disclosure and reporting from Citizens United & Doe v Reed

March 12-14 The future of publicly financed elections after Citizens United.  The logic of Citizens United majority was used to invalidate an Arizona public finance plan.  Is the idea of publicly financed political campaigns dead after Citizens United?

READ:  Arizona Free Enterprise Club v Bennett

March 12 Exercise #3 Distributed, due March 21 Third Exercise Due 3:30 pm (35 points)