NPR : News

Supreme Court Says Montana Cannot Ignore 'Citizens United' Ruling

The state of Montana has lost a closely watched bid to challenge Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that lets corporations deploy their money to help or attack specific candidates.

Citizens United dramatically loosened the restraints on corporate involvement in political campaigns. It also set strict new limits on what's considered "corruption or the appearance of corruption" when it comes to restricting money in politics.

After Citizens United, statutes on corporate money fell in many other states. But not in Montana. There, the state's high court ruled that a flat ban on corporate political spending was justified, based on Montana's history of extensive, corporate-financed corruption in state government, back in the decades around the turn of the 20th century.

The U.S. Supreme Court wasn't interested in that history. In an unsigned opinion Monday, it said there can be "no serious doubt" that Citizens United applies in Montana.

Four liberal justices dissented, saying Citizens United should be reconsidered.

Many activists on the left would agree, pointing to the torrent of big money in this year's presidential campaign. Most of that money is made possible either by Citizens United or, more often, by a subsequent lower-court ruling known as SpeechNow.org, which is based on Citizens United.

For critics of Citizens United, the Montana case represented a quick path to reopening the argument — although a highly risky one, considering that the makeup of the Supreme Court hasn't changed.

Now, the critics face the possibility of two long campaigns: to restrict corporate politicking by constitutional amendment, or to wait for opportunities to rebalance the court as vacancies occur.

Along the way, they can fight for more incremental changes to the now largely deregulated campaign finance system. It doesn't look like an easy journey.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Why Does Every New Restaurant Look Like A Factory?

The stripped-down look of exposed brick, poured cement floors, and Edison light bulbs is popular in restaurants across America. One reporter dares to ask, "Seriously, why?"
NPR

1 In 10 People May Face Malnutrition As Fish Catches Decline

Many people around the world rely on fish not just for protein but for critical micronutrients like iron and zinc. So declining fisheries pose major risks for global health, scientists warn.
WAMU 88.5

Why Local Nonprofits Haven't Fixed Poverty

As long as there has been poverty, there have been people trying to end it. We explore the obstacles and inefficiencies local nonprofits run into when trying to solve society's stubborn problem.

NPR

'Future Shock' Author Alvin Toffler Dies at 87

Toffler's warnings about 'information overload' and the accelerating pace of change in modern society made his seminal 1970 book a best-seller in the U.S. and around the world.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.