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Citizens United still rules; money still talks

This artist rendering shows Supreme Court Justices from

This artist rendering shows Supreme Court Justices from left, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel A. Alito, and Elena Kagan inside Supreme Court in Washington. (June 25, 2012) Credit: AP

The balance of power on the U.S. Supreme Court hasn't changed in two years, so neither has the majority's view that corporations and unions have the same free speech rights as individuals to spend money on political advocacy.

Critics of the decision were hoping, a very naive hope at best, that a case out of Montana would give the court a reason to overturn its sweeping, 5-4 decision that unleashed a flood of cash into this year's national and state elections.

Montana's highest court set up the direct conflict with Citizens United by ruling that it was entitled to keep the laws it had for more than a century to eliminate corruption and influence buying. Montana's position was supported by 22 states, including New York.

The summary dismissal of the argument about whether Citizens United applied to state and local elections came in a one-page answer,  “There can be no serious doubt that it does.” That's pretty direct, but the court could have even been more candid: "Can't you count on one hand?"

While the simple "bench" ruling didn't cite an author, the five justices who constituted the slim majority in 2010 haven't changed: Chief Justice John Roberts and associate justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy.

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