Conservative justices repeatedly raised questions about whether the campaign finance restrictions on corporations were too broad and all-encompassing to pass constitutional muster.
At the same time, the court's liberal wing remained united in the view that the corporate restrictions were justified by Congressional concern about the corruptive and distorting influence of corporate dollars in federal campaigns. Some also suggested that it was unfair for corporations to use shareholder money to pursue political goals.
Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and the court's newest justice, Sonia Sotomayor, repeatedly stressed that the court should identify narrower grounds to decide the case rather than overturning established legal precedents.
But the conservatives – including Roberts and Alito – seemed determined to correct what they view as an error of constitutional import.
The 'Hillary' documentary
The case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, involves a decision by the FEC to block video-on-demand broadcasts of a 90-minute documentary attacking the potential presidential candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The film, "Hillary: The Movie," was produced by a conservative nonprofit group called Citizens United. The group complained that the FEC action was an unconstitutional form of government censorship of political speech.