Court rejects Montana's challenge to Citizens United, denies corporate campaign spending limits

Jun 25, 2012

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has reaffirmed its two-year-old decision relaxing limits on corporate campaign spending. The justices on Monday reversed a Montana court ruling upholding state restrictions.

By a 5-4 vote, the court's conservative justices said the decision in the Citizens United case in 2010 applies to state campaign finance laws and guarantees corporate and labor union interests the right to spend freely to advocate for or against candidates for state and local offices.

The majority turned away pleas from the court's liberal justices to give a full hearing to the case because massive campaign spending since the January 2010 ruling has called into question some of its underpinnings.

Court's ruling:

The question presented in this case is whether the holding of  Citizens United applies to the Montana state  law. There can be no serious doubt that it does.  See U. S.  Const., Art. VI, cl. 2. Montana’s arguments in support of  the judgment below either  were already rejected in  Citizens United, or fail to meaningfully distinguish that case.

The petition for certiorari is granted. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Montana is reversed.

Justice Breyer’s dissent

“ … even if I were to accept Citizens United, this  Court’s legal conclusion should not bar the Montana Supreme Court’s finding, made on the record before it, that  independent expenditures by corporations did in fact lead  to corruption or the appearance of corruption in Montana. Given the history and political landscape in Montana, that court concluded that the State had a compelling interest in  limiting independent expenditures by corporations. …

Thus, Montana’s experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the Court’s decision in  Citizens United,  casts grave doubt on the Court’s supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so.

Were the matter up to me, I would vote to grant the petition for certiorari in order to reconsider Citizens United  or, at least, its application in this case.  But given the  Court’s  per curiam disposition,  I do not see a significant  possibility of reconsideration. Consequently, I vote instead to deny the petition.