Justice Stephen Breyer said in a dissent that he would have voted to hear the Montana case and use the case as a vehicle to reconsider the underlying decision in Citizens United, but it was clear there were not enough votes to do that. Three other justices joined Breyer’s dissent; Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.
“This court’s legal conclusions should not bar the Montana Supreme Court’s finding, made on the record before it, that independent expenditures by corporations did in fact lead to corruption or the appearance of corruption in Montana,” Breyer said.
“Given the history and political landscape in Montana, that court concluded that the state had a compelling interest in limiting independent expenditures by corporations,” he wrote.
“Montana’s experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the court’s decision in Citizens United, casts grave doubt on the court’s supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so.”
The high court reversal brought praise from free speech advocates and disappointment from supporters of campaign finance reform efforts.
“The Supreme Court is broken,” said Russ Feingold, a former US senator from Wisconsin Senator and a champion of campaign finance reform. “The Supreme Court had a perfect chance today to clean up the corrupt mess created by their lawless Citizens United decision. Instead, they just shrugged.”