US Top Court Reaffirms Corporate Campaign Spending
WASHINGTON — Hefty outlays of corporate cash that grease US political campaigns cannot be banned in Montana, the US Supreme Court said, throwing out a century-old law in the western state.
The justices said in an unsigned opinion, and without hearing oral arguments in the case, that Montana's law limiting corporate campaign spending was in conflict with the Citizens United decision they reached in 2010.
That ruling effectively overhauled US campaign finance rules by allowing companies to spend freely on political campaign advertising either in support of or against a political candidate, which the justices said is protected speech.
Despite the Citizens' United decision, Montana's high court had refused to strike down the state's ban on corporate election spending, citing Montana's dodgy history with copper barons who bribed legislators.
The Supreme Court's reaffirming of the highly controversial decision dashed the hopes of advocates for stricter campaign finance regulations for the ruling to be reconsidered, in light of a tidal wave of corporate cash in political campaign following Citizens' United.
Twenty-three US states had supported Montana's bid to uphold its ban, while the state's Attorney General Steve Bullock said the ruling represented, "a sad day for our democracy."
So-called "super PACs" or political action committees played an important role in the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, running television ads backing certain candidates, and attacking their opponents, and seem likely to play an even bigger role as the November 6 election nears.
Dissenting from the 5-4 decision, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that "considerable experience" since Citizens' United casts "grave doubt on the court's supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt."
Advocates for campaign finance reform despite the setback vowed to continue their fight for tougher laws.
"Citizens and the nation are not going to accept the Supreme Court-imposed campaign finance system that allows our government to be auctioned off to billionaires, millionaires, corporate funders and other special interests using political money to buy influence and results," said Fred Wertheimer, president of the public advocacy group Democracy 21.