Retired Justice John Paul Stevens is reading a lot into Justice Alito's famous mouthing of the words "not true" in response to President Obama's 2010 State of the Union remark that Citizens United "reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections." What Justice Alito really meant to say, Justice Stevens suggested to an audience yesterday at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, was that “in due course it will be necessary for the Court to issue an opinion explicitly crafting an exception that will create a crack in the foundation of the Citizens United majority opinion.” In his remarks, Stevens endorsed the President's SOTU reading of the opinion, and said that the reasoning of the opinion extends to contributions by foreign corporations:
In that succinct comment, the former professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School made three important and accurate observations about the Supreme Court majority's opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission: first, it did reverse a century of law; second, it did authorize unlimited election-related expenditures by America's most powerful interests; and, third, the logic of the opinion extends to money spent by foreign entities. That is so because the Court placed such heavy emphasis on the premise that the First Amendment generally prohibits the suppression of political speech based on the speaker's identity." Indeed, the oplnlon expressly stated, we find no basis for the proposition that, in the context of political speech, the Government may impose restrictions on certain disfavored speakers." Somewhat inconsistently, however, the Court also stated that it would not reach the question whether the Government has a compelling interest in preventing foreign individuals or associations from influencing our Nation's political process."