Faculty Advisor

Kessel, Alisa

Area of Study

Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Publication Date

Summer 2012


In 2010, the Supreme Court answered this question in Citizens United v. FEC, which granted corporations First Amendment political speech rights and struck down limitations on independent expenditures by for-profit corporations. My research focused on the uses of legal theories of corporate personhood within the Citizens United decision. I found that the Court’s Citizens United decision used logic from several theories of corporate personhood to avoid acknowledging that there are different types of corporations, each with unique claims to political speech rights. The use of multiple theories of corporate personhood led the Court to conflate the two major types of corporations, for-profit business organizations and expressive organizations. In order to expose the problems in the Citizens United decision, I used Meir Dan-Cohen’s theoretical model of organizational political speech rights to analyze the differences between expressive organizations, which he argues may have a justifiable claim to political speech protection, and for-profit business corporations, which lack the same theoretical justifications for First Amendment political speech protections. I conclude the paper with suggestions on how the Citizens United decision could be improved in the hope that this work can help litigants and legal scholars who face questions of corporate political speech rights in the future.

I would like to thank Dr. Alisa Kessel for her help and support throughout the research process. She was instrumental in all phases of the process and always encouraged me to strive for excellence in every aspect of my research.


University of Puget Sound

Fall Survey.w7j2yk1.partial (1 kB)
Fall Survey