Supreme Court won’t revisit Citizens United decision

Reply Mon 25 Jun, 2012 01:12 pm
Jun. 25, 2012
Supreme Court won’t revisit Citizens United decision
By Michael Doyle | McClatchy Newspapers

Amidst a torrent of campaign spending, a divided Supreme Court on Monday declined to take another look at a controversial 2010 ruling that helped open up the political floodgates.

The court’s decision means the increasingly secretive world of campaign contributions and the unforeseen consequences of the case known as Citizens United will remain intact for the foreseeable future. The decision also exposed a sharp split on the court, where four of the nine justices voiced unhappiness Monday about the current state of campaign finance.

“Considerable experience 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,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote.

In its 5-4 ruling two years ago, the court in Citizens United declared that restrictions on independent expenditures violated the First Amendment’s free-speech protections. The ruling meant corporations and unions could spend unlimited amounts on ads designed to help or hurt a candidate; the ruling, however, did not change the rules governing contributions made directly to candidates.

The ruling, along with related campaign finance decisions, has enabled political operatives to raise and spend record sums. Groups like American Crossroads have been pumping big bucks into Republican efforts, while Democrats have formed their own groups with names like Priorities USA.

The outside spending by non-party groups neared $305 million in the 2010 elections, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, and spending in this election cycle has already exceeded 2010 levels.

“Contributors who want to give enough money to buy candidates now have an obvious place to turn: ‘outside’ groups with a publicly stated intent to pour massive sums into supporting those candidates,” former Solicitor General Seth Waxman wrote in a legal brief.

Earlier this year, Breyer and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer added their own worried assessment that post-Citizens United campaign spending has become problematic.

Their potential opportunity to revisit Citizens United arose because last year, in an extraordinary challenge to the high court’s authority, the Montana Supreme Court upheld a longstanding state campaign finance law that banned corporate spending on elections. The state ruling essentially dismissed the U.S. Supreme Court’s commands, which simply isn’t done.

“Unlike Citizens United, this case concerns Montana law, Montana elections and it arises from Montana history,” the Montana Supreme Court insisted.

Because the Montana court’s decision directly flouted the Supreme Court’s ruling, some advocates urged the high court to summarily overturn it without the need for a full hearing.

“When the highest court in the country has spoken clearly on a matter of federal constitutional law, as it did in Citizens United…this court is not at liberty to disregard or parse that decision in order to uphold a state law that, while politically popular, is clearly at odds with the Supreme Court’s decision,” warned Justice James Nelson of the Montana Supreme Court, in a dissent.

On Monday, in its unsigned decision, the Supreme Court agreed and reversed the Montana court’s actions. Breyer and the four dissenting justices agreed that the Montana court was in the wrong, but still wanted the case heard fully to set the stage for winding back at least some of the Citizens United ruling.

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Reply Mon 25 Jun, 2012 07:54 pm
It is a shame..it is selling out and betraying the common (majority ) of people ,...it serves only the rich....
I even wonder why do we need a Supreme Court? They are NOT above their own political biases...they are infallible......maybe every state should made their own laws acording to the wishes of their citizens, and they are not serving them they could move away to more friendly states...
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