The Supreme Court had an opportunity to repair the glaring errors of its Citizen United ruling two years ago. Unfortunately, the five justices who unleashed the gusher of money into political campaigns are not interested. They summarily reversed a Montana Supreme Court decision that had upheld a state law limiting independent political spending by corporations.
A summary reversal means the high court didn’t bother with the full process of briefs and oral argument. An unsigned court opinion declared that “there can be no serious doubt” the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana law.
Actually, there is room for doubt. In Citizens United, the majority concluded that the First Amendment allows corporations, unions and wealthy individuals to spend as much as they want supporting or opposing political candidates. What Montana encountered in the early 1900s is the corrupting influence of big money. Mining and other corporate interests engaged in such excess that the state banned corporate campaign spending.
The Montana Supreme Court stressed this experience in upholding the law in the wake of Citizens United. It argued that the state had a compelling interest in limiting such campaign spending, the money fueling speech yet also playing a corrupting and destructive role.
In Citizens United, the Supreme Court pretended campaign money would not cause such harm. It still is pretending, Montana history making as little impression as the likes of Sheldon Adelson