Corporations (First Amendment Rights)
Corporate speech refers to the rights of corporations to advertise their products and to speak to matters of public concern.
Commercial speech, as manifested through advertising, and political speech in the form of contributions and expenditures on behalf of candidates and political issues must be considered in assessing whether a corporation has the same rights under the First Amendment as people.
Regulation of commercial speech must survive intermediate scrutiny to pass constitutional muster, but political speech of a corporation must survive strict scrutiny.
Following are Supreme Court cases involving corporate speech and the First Amendment.
McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (2003) upheld major provisions of
the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, rejecting claims that the act
stifled First Amendment rights.
Nike v. Kasky (2003) raised, but did not resolve, contemporary issues
regarding First Amendment protection for corporate speech in matters of
Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (2014) said the government could not
require corporations to provide coverage for contraceptives that violated
the owners’ religious beliefs.
In a landmark 2010 decision, a divided Supreme Court used the First
Amendment to invalidate a campaign regulation that banned corporate and
union spending in political elections.
Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990) upheld against a First
Amendment challenge a law prohibiting nonprofit corporations from using
general revenues for politics.
Buckley v. Valeo (1976) said limits on campaign contributions did not
violate the First Amendment freedom of expression, but limits on campaign
spending were unconstitutional.
Cammarano v. United States (1959) said businesses cannot deduct from their
taxes money spent to influence legislation. The Court said the law did not
violate the First Amendment.
Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corp. v. Public Service Commission (1980)
clarified First Amendment protection of commercial speech, determining when
it could be regulated.
In Consolidated Edison Co. v. Public Service Commission (1980), the Court
recognized and expanded the First Amendment free speech rights of
FEC v. Beaumont (2003) said laws barring corporations’ direct candidate
contributions do not violate the First Amendment rights of nonprofit