The majority argued that the First Amendment must protect speakers with equal vigor. The majority argued that the First Amendment does not tolerate prohibitions of speech based on the identity of the speaker. Because corporations are groups of individuals
, the corporate form must
receive the same free speech privileges as individual citizens. Likewise, the majority argued that independent expenditures are a form of speech, and limiting a corporation's ability to spend money also limits its ability to speak.
The majority overruled Austin because that decision allowed different restrictions on speech-related spending based on corporate identity. Additionally, the majority argued that Austin was based on an "equality" rationale - trying to equalize speech between different speakers - that the Court had previously rejected as illegitimate under the First Amendment in Buckley v. Valeo. The Michigan statute at issue in "Austin" had distinguished between corporate and union spending, prohibiting the former while allowing the latter. The "Austin" Court, over vigorous dissent by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, and Sandra Day O'Connor, had held that such distinctions were within the legislature's prerogative. In Citizens United, however, the majority argued that the First Amendment purposefully keeps the government from interfering
in the "marketplace of ideas" and "rationing" speech, and it is not up to the legislatures or the courts to create a sense of "fairness" by restricting speech.
The majority also criticized Austin's reasoning that the "distorting effect" of large corporate expenditures constituted a risk of corruption or the appearance of corruption
. Rather, the majority argued that the government had no place in determining whether large expenditures distorted an audience's perceptions, and that the type "corruption" that might justify government controls on spending for speech had to relate to some form of "quid pro quo" transaction. According to the majority, "there is no such thing as too much speech
." The public has a right to have access to all information
and to determine the reliability and importance of the information. Additionally, the majority did not believe that reliable evidence substantiated the risk of corruption or the appearance of corruption, and so this rationale did not satisfy strict scrutiny. (source: Wikipedia)