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Supreme Court upholds Citizens United decision

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Limits on corporate campaign spending are unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday, striking down a Montana law.

The court declined to revisit its groundbreaking campaign finance ruling from 2010, upholding its decision in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations, like people, have a constitutional right to be heard in election campaigns.

The court ruled in 2010 that there should be no limit to the amount of money corporations and unions can spend in elections, as long as the money is independent of the campaign it intends to support.

The case was revisited after the Montana state Supreme Court upheld a century-old state law limiting corporate campaign spending.

The Supreme Court majority opinion issued Monday struck down the Montana law, upholding the 2010 decision.

In the Citizens United case, Justice Anthony Kennedy argued that independent campaign expenditures by corporations “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the Montana case should be given new scrutiny in light of its effect on campaign finance since the original decision.

Breyer said the 2010 ruling itself had been a mistake, arguing that independent expenditures did lead to corruption.

“Montana’s experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the court’s decision in Citizens United, casts grave doubt on the court’s supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so,” Breyer wrote.

The decision “allows the government to be auctioned off to billionaires, millionaires, corporate funders and other special interests using political money to buy influence and results,” Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a non-profit organization seeking to make democracy work for all Americans, told the Los Angeles Times.

Others, like Brad Smith, founder of the Center for Competitive Politics, an organization which promotes and defends citizens’ political rights of speech, assembly and petition, think the decision was the right one.

Smith said in a statement, “In the two years since Citizens United, campaigns have been more competitive and more issue-oriented, with higher voter turnout and more voices heard.”

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