Usually when the U.S. Supreme Court takes longer than usual to hand down a decision in a particular case, it means there is likely a long opinion – complete with concurrences and/or dissents – in the making. And today’s decision in the eagerly awaited campaign finance case Citizens United v. FEC was no exception.
After all, it takes time to draft and circulate 176 pages of opinion writing among nine justices.
The split opinion eased campaign finance limits on corporate spending in presidential and congressional elections, overruling Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and partially overruling McConnell v. FEC in the process.
In the 5-4 opinion authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court held that corporations may spend freely in federal election campaigns so long as the contributions are not made directly to candidates. Kennedy was joined by the Court’s more conservative bloc. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote a lengthy dissent, which was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.
The ruling did keep in place some disclosure requirements on corporations that spend more than $10,000 per year. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the portion of the opinion upholding disclosure requirements.