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Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce

Law Dictionary
CASE BRIEFS

Law Dictionary

Featuring Black's Law Dictionary 2nd Ed.
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Constitutional Law Keyed to Cohen

Citation. 22 Ill.494 U.S. 652, 110 S. Ct. 1391, 108 L. Ed. 2d 652 (1990)

Brief Fact Summary. This case raises the issue of the constitutionality of a Michigan Statute, which prohibits corporate political expenditures, with the exception of those expenditures made from a segregated fund.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. When a State seeks to regulate corporate political expenditures, it is not in abrogation of the corporation’s First Amendment constitutional rights, if the state sets guidelines regarding the origin of the funds.


Facts. The Appellee, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce (Appellee), possessed a segregated political fund, but wished to use money from its general treasury fund to place a political advertisement. The Appellee brought suit in District Court, seeking injunctive relief against Michigan’s statutory scheme, arguing that the restriction of expenditures was facially unconstitutional.

Issue. This case considers whether Michigan’s restrictions on corporate political expenditures can be constitutionally applied to the Appellee

Held. The court held that the statutory scheme provided a means for the Appellee to express itself politically and thus there was no abrogation of Appellee’s rights in requiring it to follow the statute.

Dissent. Judge Antonin Scalia (J. Scalia} and Judge Anthony Kennedy (J. Kennedy) dissented, arguing that the government should not be allowed to censor the fairness of political speech, by requiring segregated funds.
Concurrence. Justice John Paul Stevens (J. Stevens) and Justice William Brennan (J. Brennan) Concurred.

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Discussion. It is not an abrogation of political speech to require a corporation to follow a statutory scheme in delivering its political viewpoints.

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