In what would be a very big deal, the Supreme Court could decide this week to reexamine Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission, the game-changing 2010 ruling that blew away limits on political giving by corporations and unions.
Here’s why: Montana’s highest court ruled earlier this year in favor of limits on campaign spending by corporations – in what seems like a direct contradiction of Citizens. (Montana, along with 22 other states and D.C., plus Sens. John McCain and Sheldon Whitehouse, argues that states should be able to limit corporate spending in order to prevent political corruption.) The justices blocked that ruling and this week will decide whether to take up the case.
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Chances are, they will. And certainly – they should. Though the 5-4 majority in the Citizens decision waved away predictions of influence-buying and corruption in the absence of spending limits, the experience of the past couple of years suggests otherwise. Which is why Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in February, argued for using the Montana case as “an opportunity to consider whether, in light of the huge sums deployed to buy candidates’ allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway.”
Given the Court’s make-up, it’s pretty unlikely that they’ll reverse themselves. But a lot of people, including former Justice John Stevens, thinks that Citizen‘s days are numbered anyway. He said earlier this month that what we know now about the effects of the ruling “provide a basis to expect that the Court already has had second thoughts about the breadth of the reasoning.”