Citizens United (organization)

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Citizens United
Citizens United logo.jpg
FormationNovember 1988; 32 years ago (1988-11)
Type501(c)(4) non-profit organization
HeadquartersWashington, D.C.
President, Chairman
David Bossie

Citizens United is a conservative 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization in the United States founded in 1988. In 2010, the organization won a U.S. Supreme Court case known as Citizens United v. FEC, which struck down as unconstitutional a federal law prohibiting corporations and unions from making expenditures in connection with federal elections. The organization's current president and chairman is David Bossie.[1]


Citizens United's stated mission is to restore the United States government to "citizens' control, through a combination of education, advocacy, and grass-roots organization" seeking to "reassert the traditional American values of limited government, freedom of enterprise, strong families, and national sovereignty and security."[2] Citizens United is a conservative political advocacy group organized under Section 501(c)4 of the federal tax code, meaning that donations are not tax deductible. To fulfill this mission, Citizens United produces television commercials, web advertisements, and documentary films.[3] CU films have won film festival awards, including Perfect Valor (Best Documentary at the GI Film Festival) and Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny (Remi Award at Houston Worldfest International Festival).

David Bossie has been its president since 2000. In 2016 he took a leave of absence to be deputy campaign manager of Donald Trump's campaign for President of the United States.[4] Its offices are on Pennsylvania Avenue in the Capitol Hill area of Washington, D.C.


The Political Action Committee (PAC) Citizens United was founded in 1988 by Floyd Brown, a longtime Washington political consultant. The group promotes free enterprise, socially conservative causes and candidates who advance their mission.

Positions and advocacy[edit]

Citizens United is known for its support of conservatives in politics. The group produced a television advertisement that reveals several legislative actions taken by John McCain, which aired on Fox News Channel.[5] On October 2, 2006, in reaction to revelations of a cover-up of inappropriate communications between Republican Congressman Mark Foley and United States House of Representatives Page, Citizens United president David Bossie called on Dennis Hastert to resign over his role in covering up the scandal.[6]

The group sued New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman over Schneiderman's demand that it disclose all its donors. Citizens United lost the case.[7]

Citizens United campaigned against Michael Moore's 2004 film Fahrenheit 9/11, advocating for government limits on how much advertising the film received.[8] It also made advertisements attacking the film,[9] and when the Federal Election Commission held that Moore's film was not a violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act, produced its own rebuttal film called Celsius 41.11.[10] However, the FEC held that paying to air Celsius 41.11 would constitute an illegal corporate campaign expenditure.[11]

In 2008, Citizens United produced a documentary film highly critical of Hillary Clinton called Hillary: The Movie.[12] Fearing prosecution from the FEC, the organization sought a declaratory judgment in federal court to assure their right to show the movie, leading ultimately to the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. It previously produced and screened advertisements attacking other Democrats, including Bill Clinton,[8] John Kerry,[13] and Al Gore.[12] In the 1988 US presidential election, Citizens United ran an ad that used Willie Horton to attack Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis. The ad was described as racist by the progressive magazine Mother Jones.[12]

The group has produced a film criticizing the United Nations.[10]

Citizens United and the Trump administration[edit]

In 2016 the Donald Trump presidential campaign enlisted Citizens United president David Bossie as deputy campaign manager.[14] During the campaign, Bossie made regular television appearances on behalf of the Trump campaign.[15] Bossie is a close friend and longtime acquaintance of Trump administration officials Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway,[16] having introduced Bannon to Trump in 2011.[17]

Citizens United Productions[edit]

Citizens United Productions, headed by president David Bossie, has released 25 feature-length documentaries. The following is a list of films produced by Citizens United Productions.

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission[edit]

Citizens United was the plaintiff in a Supreme Court case that began as a challenge to various statutory provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), known as the "McCain-Feingold" law. The case revolved around the documentary Hillary: The Movie, which was produced by Citizens United. Under the McCain-Feingold law, a federal court in Washington D.C. ruled that Citizens United would be barred from advertising its film.[18] The case (08-205, 558 U.S. 50 (2010)) was heard in the United States Supreme Court on March 24, 2009. During oral argument, the government argued that under existing precedents, it had the power under the Constitution to prohibit the publication of books and movies if they were made or sold by corporations.[19] After that hearing, the Court requested re-argument specifically to address whether deciding the case required the Court to reconsider those earlier decisions in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and McConnell v. FEC. The case was re-argued on September 9. On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court overturned the provision of McCain-Feingold barring corporations and unions from paying for political ads made independently of candidate campaigns.[20] A dissenting opinion by Justice Stevens[21] was joined by Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, and Justice Sotomayor.


Citizens United has accepted funding from The Presidential Coalition, LLC,[22] and the Koch brothers.[23]


  1. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Citizens United. Retrieved 2016-05-24.
  2. ^ Who We Are,
  3. ^ "Fulfilling Our Mission".
  4. ^ Ehrhardt, Rainier. "Donald Trump campaign hires Citizens United president David Bossie known for historic 2010 Supreme Court ruling that deregulated political spending". Daily News. AP.
  5. ^ Citizens United Against McCain, January 31, 2008. Archived November 10, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Conservative Activists Call on Hastert To Res, ThinkProgress, October 2, 2006.
  7. ^ Stempel, Jonathan (2015-07-27). "Citizens United loses New York ruling over donors". Reuters. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  8. ^ a b Peter Overby Twitter. "Are 'Fahrenheit 9/11' Ads Campaign Spots?". NPR. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  9. ^ "Entertainment | US groups want Moore film banned". BBC News. 2004-06-18. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  10. ^ a b "United Nations Faces New Challenges". Fox News. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  11. ^ "Context of 'September 8, 2004: FEC Denies Citizens United Request to Show Partisan Documentary on Television before Presidential Elections'".
  12. ^ a b c Stephanie Mencimer (2008-01-13). "Hillary's Hero: Judge Royce Lamberth". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  13. ^ " – New ads call Kerry 'rich liberal elitist' – Mar 8, 2004". 2004-03-08. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  14. ^ Costa, Robert (2016-09-01). "Trump enlists veteran operative David Bossie as deputy campaign manager". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-02-04.
  15. ^ Kaplan, Alex (2016-09-28). "Trump Is Trying To Divert The Media From His Disastrous Debate, And CNN Just Admitted It's Working". MediaMatters. Retrieved 2017-02-04.
  16. ^ Benen, Steven (2016-09-02). "Citizens United chief takes leadership role on Team Trump". MSNBC. Retrieved 2017-02-04.
  17. ^ Benac, Nancy; Colvin, Jill (2017-02-01). "Little heard in public, Bannon is quiet power in Oval Office". Associated Press. Washington. Retrieved 2017-02-04.
  18. ^ Barnes, Robert (2009-03-14). "'Hillary: The Movie' to Get Supreme Court Screening". The Washington Post. p. A5.
  19. ^ "The Myth of Campaign Finance Reform". National Affairs. 2010.
  20. ^ Liptak, Adam (2010-01-21). "Justices, 5-4, Reject Corporate Spending Limit". The New York Times. Associated Press. Retrieved 15 October 2015.
  21. ^ Stevens opinion at ibid.
  22. ^ "The Presidential Coalition, LLC "527" Political Organization". Archived from the original on 22 April 2019.
  23. ^ Ashbrook, Tom. "'Citizens United' And The Koch Brothers". WBUR.

External links[edit]