Voting 5 to 4, the justices found, in a two-paragraph opinion,
that the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling applied to a 100-
year-old Montana anticorruption law barring corporate money in
In a reaffirmation of its controversial Citizens United decision
on campaign finances, the US Supreme Court on Monday struck down as
unconstitutional a 100-year old Montana law that banned corporations
from spending money to influence state elections.
The high court voted 5 to 4 to summarily reverse a December 2011
decision by the Montana Supreme Court upholding the state's Corrupt
Practices Act of 1912.
The 1912 ban on corporate money in elections was passed to
prevent a return of the widespread corruption of the "Copper Kings,"
when wealthy and powerful mining interests in Montana routinely
bought judges, controlled newspapers, and bribed lawmakers.
The majority justices dismissed the Montana high court's decision
in a two-paragraph opinion.
"The question presented in this case is whether the holding of
Citizens United applies to the Montana state law," the unsigned
opinion said. "There can be no serious doubt that it does."
In its 2010 decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election
Commission, the high court ruled that a federal ban on independent
expenditures prior to an election violated the First Amendment
rights of corporations and labor unions to engage in political
speech free of government censorship.
"Political speech does not lose its First Amendment protection
simply because its source is a corporation," the court held.
The Montana high court ruled that the Citizens United decision
did not apply in their state because Montana had a long history of
election-related corruption that justified restrictions on corporate
spending even a century later.
Justice Stephen Breyer said in a dissent that he would have voted
to hear the Montana case and use the case as a vehicle to reconsider
the underlying decision in Citizens United, but it was clear there
were not enough votes to do that. Three other justices joined
Breyer's dissent; Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena
"This court's legal conclusions 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," Breyer said.
"Given the history and political landscape in Montana, that court
concluded that the state had a compelling interest in limiting
independent expenditures by corporations," he wrote.
"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."
The high court reversal brought praise from free speech advocates
and disappointment from supporters of campaign finance reform
"The Supreme Court is broken," said Russ Feingold, a former US
senator from Wisconsin Senator and a champion of campaign finance
reform. "The Supreme Court had a perfect chance today to clean up
the corrupt mess created by their lawless Citizens United decision.
Instead, they just shrugged."
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called the Supreme
Court's summary reversal "another important victory for freedom of
He said a review of federal records shows that of the $96 million
contributed to the eight Republican Super PACs, less than14 percent
came from corporations and less than 1 percent from public
companies. "Clearly, the much predicted corporate tsunami that
critics of Citizens United warned about simply did not occur," he
said in a statement. …