June 29, 2009

"The Supreme Court Gets Ready To Turn on the Corporate Fundraising Spigot"

My Slate Jurisprudence column on the developments in Citizens United is now available. It begins:

    If Republicans were wondering how their 2012 presidential candidate is going to compete against President Obama's $600 million fundraising juggernaut, the Supreme Court seems poised to provide an answer: unlimited corporate spending supporting the Republican candidate, or attacking Obama.

    In a Supreme Court term that has had its share of surprises, the court saved one of the biggest for last. Rather than publish an opinion at the end of the term as expected in an obscure campaign finance case, Citizens United v. FEC, the court issued a rare order for reargument of the case in September (before the usual start of the term). At that point, the court will consider whether to overrule its two previous decisions that in 1990 and 2003 upheld limits on corporate spending in federal elections.

    Given the dynamics of the court, there is a great chance the justices will use the opportunity to overrule limits on how much money corporations can spend supporting candidates--whether or not Judge Sonia Sotomayor is confirmed in time to hear the case in September. In the Voting Rights Act case the court considered last week, the court ducked the constitutional question in favor of narrow statutory interpretation. In contrast, in Citizens United, the court is likely to address the constitutional questions head-on, and the outcome likely will not be good for supporters of reasonable campaign-finance regulation.

Posted by Rick Hasen at June 29, 2009 12:08 PM