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Blogs / Influence

Unlimited Corporate Political Spending Gets More Unlimited

The Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, June 25, 2012. The Supreme Court is meeting Monday to issue opinions in some of the handful of cases that remain unresolved. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

June 25, 2012
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What, Montana, you think you can place caps on corporate and union political donations? Well nice try, Big Sky Country, but no dice. 

The Supreme Court effectively ruled 5-4 Monday that a Montana ban on such campaign spending doesn't jive with the high court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United, which opened the door for corporate spending in politics. The Court also declined to revisit that 2010 case. My colleague Alex Roarty explains:

The current case, American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock, stemmed from a century-old Montana law that prohibits corporations from spending money on political campaigns. The effort, joined by more than 20 states, stipulated states should be allowed to carve out their own rules to regulate political fundraising and spending, an argument backed by the Montana Supreme Court when it ruled in favor of the state law last year.

But the Supreme Court, in a one-page per curiam opinion that shut the door on the possibility of oral arguments, curtly dismissed the notion that federal law didn't apply.

A steady stream of displeasure at the high court's decision to not revisit Citizens United came from some members on the Hill. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., who is supporting an effort to amend the Constitution to give Congress and states power to limit campaign contributions, issued a statement reading that the court "doubled down on its disastrous decision in Citizens United." But as National Journal's Roarty notes, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., hailed the high court's ruling as "another important victory for freedom of speech."

Monday's ruling could spell doom for laws in 23 other states that are similar to the Montana one, says University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias. He predicts groups opposed to such laws could begin challenging them.

"It seems that five justices are now pretty much wedded to Citizens United," Tobias told the Alley.

The Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, June 25, 2012. The Supreme Court met Monday to issue opinions in some of the handful of cases that remain unresolved. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

*This post has been updated to clarify Merkley is a cosponsor on a bill to amend the Constitution.

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