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Supreme Court Reaffirms Citizens United Ruling & First Amendment Protections‏

June 25th, 2012 by mopns · No Comments

This morning, the Supreme Court reaffirmed its ruling in its 2010 Citizens United decision by striking down a Montana law that banned corporate spending on political campaigns. The Montana Supreme Court upheld the law in defiance of the Citizens United precedent and the Court today reversed the Montana court, reiterating that the First Amendment applies to the states.

George Will explained the Montana case well in a column last month: “Montana uses an interesting argument to justify defiance of a Supreme Court decision: Because the state is particularly prone to political corruption, it should be trusted to constrict First Amendment protections of political speech. . . .  Three Montana corporations sued to bring the state into conformity with Citizens United by overturning a 100-year-old state law, passed when copper and other corporations supposedly held sway, that bans all corporate political spending.”

In its opinion today, the Court writes, “In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, this Court struck down a similar federal law, holding that ‘political speech does not lose First Amendment protection simply because its source is a corporation.’ . . . The question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law. There can be no serious doubt that it does.”

Reacting to the decision, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said, “In another important victory for freedom of speech, the Supreme Court has reversed the Montana Supreme Court, upholding First Amendment free speech rights that were set out in Citizens United. As I pointed out in an amicus brief that I filed in the Montana case, a review of Federal Election Commission records of independent spending supporting the eight Republican presidential candidates earlier this year showed only minimal corporate involvement in the 2012 election cycle. Not one Fortune 100 company contributed a cent to any of the eight Republican Super PACs, as of the end of March, according to FEC records. The records also showed that of the $96 million contributed to the eight Super PACs through March 31, an overwhelming 86.32 percent of that money came from individuals while only 13.68 percent came from corporations and 0.81 percent from public companies. Clearly, the much predicted corporate tsunami that critics of Citizens United warned about simply did not occur.”

Liberals who favor restricting political speech had hoped to use the Montana case to revisit Citizens United and possibly get a different result. National Journal notes, “The Supreme Court’s rejection of a long-shot legal challenge to let states bar corporate and union political contributions in their own elections underscores the legal quandary in which many left-of-center campaign finance reformers find themselves. . . . Efforts to curb the [campaign spending by independent groups] through the judiciary have thus far proven fruitless; Paul Ryan, senior counsel to the Campaign Legal Center, a left-of-center interest group, called the ruling ‘disappointing but predictable.’ . . . ‘This closes the door on the argument that unique facts in a certain state can be employed to overturn [Citizens United],’ said Jim Bopp, an Indiana campaign finance attorney who has spearheaded an array of challenges to campaign finance laws across the country.”

As Will wrote, “The collapse of liberals’ confidence in their ability to persuade is apparent in their concentration on rigging the rules of political persuasion. Their problem is that the First Amendment is the rule.”

Related:

Rasmussen Reports: 55% Want U.S. Supreme Court to Uphold Arizona Immigration Law

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