This week, the court declined to reargue its landmark ruling on campaign finance, even though elections across the country are awash in outside money
This week, the Supreme Court cursorily voided a 100-year-old Montana law that limited campaign spending by corporations. Montana's highest court had recently publicly backed the law, despite the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, which allowed companies and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money in campaigns and helped give rise to the dominance of the super PAC. But the Supreme Court quashed Montana's renegade move. In an unsigned opinion, the Supreme Court's conservatives said that, in light of Citizens United, Montana's campaign law was clearly a violation of free speech rights. Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer penned a dissent contending that the recent flood of campaign cash should cast doubt on a principal supposition of Citizens United — that independent expenditures by corporations do not "corrupt or appear to do so." Should the court reconsider Citizens United?
No. Free speech is a sacred right: The "short but sweet" message from the Supreme Court is clear, says The Wall Street Journal in an editorial: We're serious about protecting the First Amendment. Liberals have preposterously "begun to treat Citizens United as the moral equivalent of Dred Scott," the 1857 case that denied constitutional protections to black slaves. But the truth is that Citizens United "hasn't led to the corruption that liberals predicted." Instead, "it has produced more competitive elections and a more robust political debate."
"Supreme Court majority united"
Yes. Citizens United is a travesty: The court should have "used the Montana case to revisit their decision and rein in its disastrous effects," says The New York Times in an editorial. Citizens United led to "$300 million in outside spending that deluged the 2010 congressional elections," and reports show that Republican candidates alone will receive $1 billion in outside funding this year, "overwhelming the competition." Even worse, "many of the biggest donations are secret, given to tax-free advocacy groups." The Supreme Court "has chosen to turn its back as elections are bought by the biggest check writers."
And most Americans hate it: Polls show that most Americans "still hate the result in Citizens United as much as ever," says Dahlia Lithwick at Slate. "They connect [the court's decision] directly to what they see as the flood of big money in this election from donors like Sheldon Adelson," the casino magnate who has promised $10 million and more to help Mitt Romney get elected. Citizens United has had the "unanticipated effect of uniting American citizens against the court."
"The court's conservatives don't care how much you hate Citizens United"
Other stories from this topic:
- Fact Sheet: Sheldon Adelson: 7 surprising facts about 2012's biggest donor
- Opinion Brief: Conservatives' $1 billion spending blitz: Will they buy the election?
- Instant Guide: Who's winning the 2012 presidential money race?