Thursday, January 21, 2010

Supreme Court Overturns McCain-Feingold, and Itself

The Supreme Court has just handed down a 5-4 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which overturns central provisions of the "McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002" that  limited the amount of money corporations could contributed to political campaigns. Equating money with political speech and corporations with human individuals, Justice Kennedy's majority opinion also overruled previous Supreme Court decisions from 2003 and 1990. Justice Stevens took the still unusual, though increasingly common, step of reading his lengthy dissent from the bench. That dissent accused the Court of making a grave error in treating corporations as ordinary persons for purposes of political speech. The NY Times reports on the decision here.

UPDATE: My colleague Gerard Magliocca approves of the outcome, but agrees with Justice Stevens that  narrower grounds existed for the majority's ruling (here). And University of Illinois law professor Lawrence Solum observes (here) that Justice Roberts's concurring opinion in the case seems to establish a new basis for declining to follow precedents that are "hotly contested," and creates tension with existing Supreme Court rulings (notably Casey) on the issue of precedent. No doubt as constitutional law experts read and digest the Court's ruling, a lot more exegesis and analysis will appear in the blogs and, ultimately, in law journals.

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