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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Non-profits Divided Over Citizens United

Abby Levine, AFJ’s Deputy Director of Advocacy Programs, spoke at today’s Hudson Institute panel titled “Non-profits Divided Over Citizens United,” analyzing the impact of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission on business corporations, unions, and nonprofit organizations.

The panel was broadcast live by CSPAN, and you can watch it in its entirety here.

As you can see in this broadcast, the Citizens United case in some ways encompasses the breadth and depth of AFJ’s work—it demonstrates the importance of who sits on the Court and the impact the Court has on our everyday activities; as well as the important role nonprofits play in our democratic society and the ways in which nonprofits can participate in our electoral process.

In speaking about the composition of the court, Levine commented that:
“Too often, the current Court has decided cases in favor of big business at the
expense of ordinary people. We expect to have a Supreme Court vacancy sometime
this year. It is critically important that our next justice understands how the
law affects ordinary people. We need justices and judges in all of our courts
who will keep faith with our core constitutional values and protect the rights
of all Americans, not a select few.”
As for the opportunities afforded to nonprofits, Levine pointed out that while much of the focus has been about increased spending by for-profit corporations, the Citizens United decision provides new opportunities for organizations that promote the social good. AFJ has developed a number of resources to ensure nonprofits have the information needed to navigate this new legal landscape. Nonprofit organizations interested in taking advantage of these new opportunities can visit our website for a plain-language discussion of the impact of Citizens United as well as updates on changes in the law as a result of Citizens United.

While it’s likely Congress and some state legislatures will pursue new mechanisms to counteract the high court’s decision, Levine pointed out it is doubtful these proposals will be in place before the fall election season. She recommended that nonprofits learn to seize the current opportunity to participate more fully in our democracy.

Other speakers included: Geri Mannion, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Allison Hayword, George Mason University, Larry Ottinger, Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest, and Cleta Mitchell of Foley & Lardner.
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