It’s been two years since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee case and declared that limiting corporate spending on political campaigns is a violation of businesses’ right to free expression. Today, the Supremes affirmed that controversial decision by striking down a 100-year-old Montana law that capped spending on state-level elections.
Montana and other states had argued that the Citizens United case only applied to federal elections, but by the same 5-4 vote in the earlier decision, the court ruled that corporations and labor unions are allowed to spend freely — so long as all the cash does not go directly to a candidate — on all elections.
The 2010 decision ushered in the era of so-called Super PACs, which allow businesses and unions to throw large amounts of money behind politicians and political parties.
Some of the Supreme Court justices had asked for a full hearing to discuss the campaign spending changes that have occurred since the Citizens United decision, but that request was denied.
In the original Citizens United decision, Justice Kennedy had stated that corporate campaign spending “does not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”
But earlier this year, Justice Ginsburg wrote that the actions of Super PACs in the wake of that ruling have made it “exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations ‘do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.'”
Some states, like Vermont, have called for a Constitutional Amendment overturning the ruling, which some believes effectively grants corporations all the rights afforded to individuals.