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Supreme Court allows corporate, labor union interests to spend freely in campaigns

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 25th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court's conservative justices have reaffirmed its 2-year-old decision allowing corporations to spend freely to influence elections. The decision as rendered in the Citizens United case in 2010 applies to state campaign finance laws and guarantees corporate and labor union interests the right to spend whatever they decide to advocate for, or against candidates for state and local offices. The decision strikes down a state of Montana law limiting corporate campaign spending.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The same five justices said in 2010 that corporations have a constitutional right to be heard in election campaigns. The previous decision set into motion unlimited spending by corporations and labor unions in elections for Congress and the president, on provision that the dollars are independent of the campaigns they are intended to help.

Montana has aggressively defended its 1912 law against a challenge from corporations seeking to be free of spending limits. The state Supreme Court sided with the state. A history of corruption showed the need for the limits the court decided; even as Justice Anthony Kennedy declared in his Citizens United opinion that independent expenditures by corporations "do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption."

Twenty-two states and the U.S. capital area, as well as Sen. John McCain and other congressional champions of stricter regulations on campaign money, joined with Montana.

Both Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer had already challenged Kennedy's view that the independent campaign spending could not be corrupting by virtue of the absence of links to a campaign.

Ginsburg in a brief statement for herself and Breyer said that campaign spending since the decision makes "it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations 'do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.'"

Ginsburg appeared to be referring to the rise of unregulated super political action committees that have injected millions of dollars into the presidential and other campaigns, saying the case "will give the court an opportunity to consider whether, in light of the huge sums currently deployed to buy candidates' allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway."

The corporations that sued over the law said it could not remain on the books after the Citizens United decision.

The State of Montana urged the high court to reject the appeal, or hold arguments and not issue what the court calls a summary reversal. Montana and its supporters had previously thought that a thorough debate over the Citizens United decision would lead to its reconsideration or at least limits on its reach.

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