The U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision yesterday that could upend the dynamics of promoting political candidates, causes and viewpoints.
In Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, the Court set aside precedent and lifted all caps on political spending by corporate entities. Noting that the First Amendment “prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech,” the ruling is certain to arouse passions on both sides of the political spectrum.
Whatever your opinion or affiliation, however, the decision could be a boon for public relations practitioners. With limits gone, spending by corporations, unions and special interest groups is poised to explode — meaning even more money chasing after ever broader (traditional and non-traditional) means of delivering political messages. Standing to benefit are individuals and firms skilled in the art of election communications, government affairs, issues management and the like, who can apply these new sources of funding to the pursuit and delivery of specific political outcomes.
Of course, it’s still very early in the game, and it’s yet to be seen exactly how the cards will fall. Prudent practitioners, however, will be looking ahead to anticipate the consequences of yesterday’s decision. As the great Wayne Gretzky once said, “a good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”
In other words, practitioners working in the political arena will be well served by closely following the aftermath of this decision. Explore what the pundits are saying about its scope and potential implications. Keep a sharp eye on developments as they unfold. Make sure to engage clients in discussions, whether they come to you, or you reach out to them. And know in advance what your posture and approach will be should new business come your way.
PRSA will continue to track developments in the aftermath of this decision and keep you informed. Look to us to supply information and updates as they become available, which we will deliver here, via our newly designed Web site and in PRSA publications, including the completely revamped Issues & Trends daily email. And, be sure to set your RSS feed to help you capture these resources in real time.
As the implications of Citizens United v. FEC unfold, yesterday’s news is likely to become tomorrow’s practical, ethical and strategic quandary. Undoubtedly, there will be legislative and political responses that may alter the ground rules yet again. PRSA will stay on top of the news, so you can remain ahead of the curve. Stay tuned.
William M. Murray is COO of PRSA.