A divided Supreme Court struck down decades-old limits on corporate political expenditures, potentially reshaping the 2010 election landscape by permitting businesses and unions to spend freely on commercials for or against candidates.
President Barack Obama attacked the ruling and said it gave "a green light to a new stampede of special-interest money in our politics," particularly "big oil, Wall Street banks, health-insurance companies and the other powerful interests" that "drown out the voices of everyday Americans." He pledged to work with lawmakers to craft a "forceful response."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who has long fought campaign-finance regulations, hailed the court for a "monumental decision" toward "restoring the First Amendment rights of [corporations and unions] by ruling that the Constitution protects their right to express themselves about political candidates and issues up until Election Day."
Some company executives and unions said they were ready to jump more directly into this year's congressional campaigns under the new rules, but big companies may remain cautious about doing so for public-relations reasons.
The ruling, which overturned two precedents, underscored the impact of former President George W. Bush's two appointments to the court. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito joined the five-justice majority that struck down not only a provision of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance act limiting corporate-funded political ads immediately before federal elections, but also federal laws dating to 1947, and state laws that were older still.