Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Justices Reject Campaign Finance Review ; Supreme Court Refuses New Look at Spending by Unions and Corporations

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Justices Reject Campaign Finance Review ; Supreme Court Refuses New Look at Spending by Unions and Corporations

Article excerpt

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to have another look at its 2010 campaign finance decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

In a brief unsigned decision, the Supreme Court on Monday declined to have another look at its blockbuster 2010 campaign finance decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In a 5-to-4 vote, the majority summarily reversed a decision of the Montana Supreme Court that had refused to follow the Citizens United decision.

"The question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law," the opinion said. "There can be no serious doubt that it does. Montana's arguments in support of the judgment below either were already rejected in Citizens United, or fail to meaningfully distinguish that case."

The four members of the court's liberal wing dissented in an opinion by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who said that Citizens United itself had been a mistake.

"Even if I were to accept Citizens United," Justice Breyer continued, "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."

"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," Justice Breyer added.

The Montana Supreme Court had ruled that the state's distinctive history and characteristics warranted a departure from the principles announced in Citizens United.

In the Citizens United case, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the five justices in the majority, wrote that the First Amendment prohibits limits on independent political spending by corporations and unions. Justice Kennedy reasoned that such expenditures "do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption."

Citizens United is the Supreme Court's most controversial decision since Bush v. Gore in 2000. It has been criticized for contributing to a political landscape awash in money, and its critics welcomed the possibility that the justices might revisit the decision. But experts in election law said there was little reason to think any of the justices in the majority had changed their minds.

Justice Breyer agreed, saying that he "did not see a significant possibility of reconsideration." He said he would have denied the appeal of the corporations involved in the Montana case, and let the state Supreme Court's decision stand.

That court, by a 5-to-2 vote, had upheld a 1912 state law limiting political activity by corporations.

The court on Monday also ruled that states may not impose mandatory life sentences without parole on juveniles, even if they have been convicted of taking part in a murder, Ethan Bronner reported. …

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