But First Amendment advocates scoff at the notion that anyone on the high court would now regard Citizens United in a different light.
“There’s no evidence that any of these judges really think that they made a mistake,” said Brad Smith, another former FEC chairman who heads the Center for Competitive Politics. The Citizens United ruling was a “pro-free speech, pro-democracy decision” that has enhanced political competition and participation, Smith added. He predicted that the Supreme Court will reverse the Montana ruling summarily, without argument.
On one point, however, Smith agreed with Citizens United’s detractors: The high court will not simply let the Montana decision stand, he maintained.
“If the Montana decision were allowed to stand, it essentially would completely overrule Citizens United, because effectively, every state could make that [same] claim,” Smith said. Assuming that the Montana ruling is appealed, as predicted, the Supreme Court could face the question of whether to revisit Citizens United as early as this spring.