August 15th’s episode of Leverage, “The Underground Job,” features a number of legal issues, including a mention of the Citizens United case, which gets the ball rolling in this episode of a series that features conmen and women who are on the “right side” of the law.

In “The Underground Job,” guest star Bruce Davison (Breach, Runaway Jury) plays the bad guy mine owner who cares so little about the welfare of his workers that he diverts money intended for repairs and safety upgrades to the campaign of his lover, a politician ambitious to be elected West Virginia’s Attorney General. The recurring characters comment that the Citizens United case allows corporations to donate money to political campaigns, suggesting that the opinion improperly allows them to donate unlimited amounts of cash that is supposed to be spent otherwise. That seems to be the show’s interpretation of the likely result of the ruling.

Interestingly, the Court actually cites to the influence of prior movies on legislators and lobbyists.

When word concerning the plot of the movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington reached the circles of Government, some officials sought, by persuasion, to discourage its distribution. See Smoodin, “Compulsory” Viewing for Every Citizen: Mr. Smith and the Rhetoric of Reception, 35 Cinema Journal 3, 19, and n. 52 (Winter 1996) (citing Mr. Smith Riles Washington, Time, Oct. 30, 1939, p. 49); Nugent, Capra’s Capitol Offense, N. Y. Times, Oct. 29, 1939, p. X5. Under Austin, though, officials could have done more than discourage its distribution — they could have banned the film. After all, it, like Hillary, was speech funded by a corporation that was critical of Members of Congress. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington may be fiction and caricature; but fiction and caricature can be a powerful force.
Modern day movies, television comedies, or skits on Youtube.com might portray public officials or public policies in unflattering ways. Yet if a covered transmission during the blackout period creates the background for candidate endorsement or opposition, a felony occurs solely because a corporation, other than an exempt media corporation, has made the “purchase, payment, distribution, loan, advance, deposit, or gift of money or anything of value” in order to engage in political speech. 2 U.S.C. § 431(9)(A)(i). Speech would be suppressed in the realm where its necessity is most evident: in the public dialogue preceding a real election. Governments are often hostile to speech, but under our law and our tradition it seems stranger than fiction for our Government to make this political speech a crime. Yet this is the statute’s purpose and design.
Some members of the public might consider Hillary to be insightful and instructive; some might find it to be neither high art nor a fair discussion on how to set the Nation’s course; still others simply might suspend judgment on these points but decide to think more about issues and candidates. Those choices and assessments, however, are not for the Government to make.”The First Amendment underwrites the freedom to experiment and to create in the realm of thought and speech. Citizens must be free to use new forms, and new forums, for the expression of ideas. The civic discourse belongs to the people, and the Government may not prescribe the means used to conduct it.” McConnell, supra, at 341, 124 S. Ct. 619, 157 L. Ed. 2d 491 (opinion of Kennedy, J.).
 
 
 

The lead characters in the show get the money back from baddie Bruce by “selling him his own mine,” conning him into thinking him there’s a valuable source of minerals underground ready for exploitation. Meanwhile, they also break up the partnership between him and his girlfriend, now the AG. At the end both are presumably headed off to face charges, seated in the back of a patrol car. 

More about this episode here, from The Oregonian.

Note the unappetizing image of the female lawyer (the state Attorney General) and compare it with other members of the Popular Culture Bar Association. Start with Stephanie B. Goldberg, Women Lawyers On TV Moving Closer To Reality.

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