In the most predictable ruling ever, the SCOTUS on Monday overturned a ruling from the Montana Supreme Court that upheld that state’s campaign finance laws, which were pretty clearly in conflict with the Citizens United ruling. It was so predictable that the five justices in the majority — the same ones in the majority in Citizens United — didn’t even bother explaining themselves, just issued a per curiam decision noting their decision.
A Montana state law provides that a “corporation may not make . . . an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political committee that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party….” The Montana Supreme Court rejected petitioners’ claim that this statute violates the First Amendment…. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, this Court struck down a similar federal law, holding that “political speech does not lose First Amendment protection simply because its source is a corporation….” The question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law. There can be no serious doubt that it does. See U. S. Const., Art. VI, cl. 2. Montana’s arguments in support of the judgment below either were already rejected in Citizens United, or fail to meaningfully distinguish that case.
The four liberal members of the court, who had all opposed the Citizens United ruling, did offer a longer dissent arguing that that ruling should be overturned. But if they don’t do that, there was no way that the Montana court’s ruling was going to stand. And there was no way the same justices were going to reverse themselves so soon. No one can be surprised by this ruling at all.