Supreme Court Doubles the Money

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If there was any doubt about the Supreme Court’s stance on Citizens United — the ruling that opened a floodgate of big donations to political campaigns — that was removed today.

Without even holding any arguments on the case, the court today summarily reversed a Montana Supreme Court decision that had upheld a state ban against corporate contributions to political campaigns.

The high court effectively affirmed its 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission which allowed unlimited corporate and union contributions to campaigns and  unleashed a new breed of so-called super-PACs that are spending tens of millions of dollars supporting and opposing candidates in the 2012 elections.

More than 600 super-PACs have raised more than $240 million and spent $133 million this election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group in Washington.

The Montana Supreme Court had ruled that Citizens United didn’t apply to its state-level restrictions. The Supreme Court put a hold on the Montana law in February.

At the time of the Citizens United ruling, 22 states had laws banning or restricting spending by corporations and unions according to a report this month by the Corporate Reform Coalition, made up of 75 organizations and individuals from good-governance groups, environmental groups and organized labor. Those states either repealed their limits or declared that their laws are unenforceable, according to the report.

The money spent by super-PACs this cycle  has far surpassed what outside groups had spent in the 2008 campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Among the notable donors, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., and his family gave $21.5 million to a super-PAC supporting the failed Republican presidential candidacy of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Bill Maher, the comedian and television personality, gave $1 million to a similar group backing Obama.

Restore Our Future, which promotes Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and opposes President Obama, raised $61.5 million and spent $53.1 million through May, the most among super-PACs, according to reports with the Federal Election Commission. American Crossroads, a super-PAC with ties to Republican strategist Karl Rove that’s working to defeat Obama and elect Republicans to the House and Senate, raised $34.5 million and spent $5.8 million through May.

Priorities USA Action, a pro-Obama super-PAC run by former White House aides, raised $14.6 million and spent $10.1 million.

Bloomberg’s Julie Bykowicz and Greg Giroux contributed to this report. 

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