In addition, the FEC ruled that if Citizens United wanted to run broadcast advertisements promoting the documentary, it must first disclose the financial backers of the film.
The FEC said the disclosure rule applied even though the content of the ads did not amount to a form of electioneering.
Citizens United filed suit, arguing before a three-judge panel that the McCain-Feingold law was unconstitutional in the way it was being enforced by the FEC against its film.
The panel disagreed. It sided with the FEC, ruling that the documentary was the functional equivalent of electioneering and that Citizens United must disclose the documentary's financial supporters if it wanted to run broadcast ads during election season.
In their appeal to the Supreme Court, lawyers for Citizens United argue that the film is not the functional equivalent of electioneering
"The government's position is so far-reaching that it would logically extend to corporate or union use of a microphone, printing press, or the Internet to express opinions – or articulate facts – pertinent to a presidential candidate's fitness for office," he says.
Government lawyers counter that "Hillary: The Movie" is an extended political attack. "[The film's] unmistakable message is that Senator Clinton's character, beliefs, qualifications, and personal history make her unsuited to the office of the President of the United States," writes Edwin Kneedler of the solicitor general's office, in a brief filed on behalf of the FEC.
The government is also asking the high court to uphold FEC disclosure requirements triggered by promotional ads. Mr. Olson is asking the court to strike down the requirements.