U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court Stays Montana Campaign Ruling; Ginsburg Sees Opportunity to Revisit Citizens United


A controversial Montana ruling that distinguished Citizens United and upheld corporate campaign restrictions in the state could give the U.S. Supreme Court an opportunity to revisit the issue, according to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The U.S. Supreme Court stayed the Montana ruling on Friday pending action on an upcoming cert petition, report the Washington Post, SCOTUSblog and Slate. After the Montana Supreme Court decided the case in late December, critic James Bopp Jr. called it “an amazing act of defiance of the Supreme Court.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission found that corporations have a First Amendment right to expressly support political candidates with independent spending. The Montana Supreme Court said it wasn’t bound by Citizens United, partly because of the state’s unique history of political corruption.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a statement on the stay (PDF) that was joined by Justice Stephen G. Breyer. “A petition for certiorari 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,” she wrote. Ginsburg and Breyer were among the four dissenters in Citizens United. The others were Justices Sonia Sotomayor and John Paul Stevens, who is now retired.

According to the Post, Ginsburg’s statement appears to refer to large amounts of money spent by super PACs after Citizens United. Corporations and wealthy persons have contributed millions of dollars to such PACs, which outspend candidates by 2-1, according to an estimate by an ad tracking firm.

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