U.Va. Law School Symposium to Examine Controversial Supreme Court Campaign Finance Ruling Citizens United

March 07, 2011

March 7, 2011 — Political experts will examine Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the divisive 2010 Supreme Court campaign finance ruling that affirmed the right of corporations to run independent political ads, during a March 19 symposium at the University of Virginia School of Law.

Donald McGahn, commissioner and former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, will deliver the keynote address at 11:45 a.m. in Caplin Pavilion as part of the symposium, "Citizens United at Age One," sponsored by the law student-run Journal of Law & Politics.

"The Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was one of the most controversial decisions of the Roberts court to date," said symposium editor Gary Lawkowski, a third-year law student. Soon after the ruling, President Obama suggested during his State of the Union address that the decision opened the door to undue influence in elections by special interests and foreign corporations.

The 5-4 decision involved a case over whether the nonprofit corporation Citizens United could air a film critical of Hillary Clinton and advertise it in broadcast ads featuring Clinton's image in apparent violation of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, commonly known as the McCain-Feingold Act.

"The goal of this symposium is to re-examine the court's ruling in Citizens United with the benefit of one year's hindsight, and to explore the way it has shaped and influenced the electoral process, both in the experience of the 2010 midterm elections and in recent developments in federal election law," Lawkowski said.

The symposium also features panels critiquing Citizens United and exploring the impact of the decision on corporate expenditures in the 2010 mid-term elections. Panelists include Joseph Birkenstock, former chief counsel of the Democratic National Committee; Trevor Potter, former general counsel to the John McCain 2008 presidential campaign; Marc Elias, former general counsel to the John Kerry presidential campaign; Michael Toner, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission; Adav Noti, the Federal Election Commission's lead attorney for Citizens United; and Lee Goodman, general counsel to the Republican Party of Virginia.

The event is open to the public and parking is available in Law School lots.

Schedule (All events March 19 at the Caplin Pavilion, U.Va. School of Law)

9:45 a.m. Breakfast

10 a.m. Welcome and Opening Remarks
Paul Mahoney, dean, U.Va. School of Law
Gary Lawkowski, symposium organizer

10:30 a.m. Panel: A Summary and Critique of the Citizens United Decision
•    Joseph Birkenstock, Caplin & Drysdale, former chief counsel of the Democratic National Committee
•    Lee Goodman, LeClairRyan, general counsel to the Republican Party of Virginia
•    Adav Noti, litigation attorney, Federal Election Commission
Moderator: Lillian BeVier, David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of Law emerita, U.Va. School of Law

11:45 a.m. Lunch and keynote address
Donald McGahn, commissioner and former chairman, Federal Election Commission

1 p.m. Panel: The Impact of Citizens United on Corporate Expenditures in the 2010 Mid-Term Elections
•    Marc Elias, Perkins Coie, former general counsel to the John Kerry presidential campaign
•    Trevor Potter, Caplin & Drysdale, former general counsel to the John McCain 2008 presidential campaign   
•    Michael Toner, Wiley Rein, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission
Moderator:  John Norton Moore, Walter L. Brown Professor of Law, U.Va. School of Law

Media Contact

Mary Wood

Chief Communications Officer University of Virginia School of Law