Citizens United and unlimited spending: Is free speech really free?

Hans von Spakovsky
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Hans von Spakovsky
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According to a national campaign finance reform organization, the average political donation per person in the United States in the 2012 election cycle was less than $10. But according to a New York Times report, in 2016, billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch and their vast political network are expected to spend nearly $900 million, the same amount each of the parties are expected to spend on campaigns.

The disparity in political spending between average individuals and powerful super PACs, the extremely wealthy and nonprofit corporations that no longer have spending limits imposed by the government due to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, is staggering.

The Citizens United ruling gave nonprofit corporations the same free speech rights as individuals, and raises important questions about whether or not corporations should have free speech and be allowed to dominate political spending, or if free speech for corporations should be limited to give average citizens a better chance to have their voice heard.

The Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University will host a Coffeehouse Debate between two experts on the matter on February 3. They will debate Citizens United and its implications on the role of money in politics and the nature of free speech in America.

Coffeehouse Debate: Is Citizens United Good for American Democracy?

Featuring Ian Millhiser, Center for American Progress; and Hans von Spakovsky, Heritage Foundation

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

7 p.m.

Loosemore Auditorium, Pew Grand Rapids Campus

Free and open to the public

RSVPs requested here

“Few questions are as important to the lives of Americans as the meaning and purpose of the First Amendment, and we’re looking forward to hearing a great debate on these critical issues,” said Joe Hogan, program manager at the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies. “The debate and discussion should pave the way for common ground.”

The debate will be moderated by U.S. District Court Judge Hugh Brenneman, Jr.

For more information, visit