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Is new Supreme Court ruling a retreat from Citizens United?

The Supreme Court upheld Monday a long-established provision of campaign finance law that seeks to prevent foreign interests from influencing domestic politics.

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Supreme Court Justices sit for a group photographin 2009, at the Supreme Court in Washington. Front row, from left are: Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, and Chief Justice John G. Roberts. Standing, from left are: Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr., Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer.

Charles Dharapak/AP

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The US Supreme Court on Monday summarily affirmed a lower court decision upholding a congressional ban on  foreign nationals spending money to influence the outcome of American elections.

The action upholds a long-established provision of campaign finance law that seeks to prevent foreign interests from influencing domestic politics.

And it signals a possible retreat – in a presidential election year – from the expansive free speech principles championed by the high court in its controversial 2010 decision, Citizens United v. FEC.

At issue in Bluman v. FEC (11-275) was whether the First Amendment protects a free speech right of foreign individuals in the US to spend money supporting or opposing a particular candidate or political issue.

The Bluman case was viewed as a potential sequel to the Citizens United decision. In that case the justices invalidated a congressional ban on corporate and labor union spending for election-related advertisements and other communications.

The high court ruled 5-4 that corporations and labor unions enjoy a First Amendment right to spend their money to run independent advertisements supporting a favored issue or candidate during election season.

The Bluman case raised a similar First Amendment issue. The case sought to extend the same free speech principles to campaign finance laws blocking election contributions and expenditures by foreign residents in the US.

The high court was apparently uninterested in examining the issue in greater detail. Instead, the justices delivered a four-word opinion: β€œThe judgment is affirmed.”

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