By Tony Mauro
In a dramatic special session this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote said that congressional restrictions on independent expenditures by corporations in federal elections violate the First Amendment.
Justice Anthony Kennedy announced the opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, declaring that the ban on corporate expenditure “uses censorship to control thought” and amounts to a chill on “core political speech.” Click here for the opinion.
For more than 20 minutes, Justice John Paul Stevens read from his dissent, describing the majority opinion as “a radical change in the law.” Stevens said that long tradition and common sense justify treating corporations differently from individuals under the First Amendment. Stevens spoke haltingly and with emotion, summarizing his 90-page dissent.
Joining Stevens in dissent were Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.
By a separate 8 to 1 vote, the Court did preserve the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act’s disclosure requirements as a valid restriction on corporations. Only Justice Clarence Thomas dissented on that issue.
The president of Public Citizen, Robert Weissman, said in a statement: "In eviscerating longstanding rules prohibiting corporations from using their own monies to influence elections, the court invites giant corporations to open up their treasuries to buy election outcomes. Corporations are sure to accept the invitation."
Stay tuned to The BLT for more to come on the case.