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Supreme Court opens floodgates on 2010 spending -- second body blow to Democrats this week

January 21, 2010 |  8:38 am

Hold on to your hats. Your wallet too.

The U.S. Supreme Court just this morning cleared the way for corporations to spend as much money as they want -- in the name of the 1st Amendment -- on political campaigns. Preserving restrictions on corporate contributions to individual candidates -- that's still taboo -- the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that corporations could run ads on behalf of various causes. Expected to fall soon: similar limits on labor union spending.

This all comes out of the case brought by makers of "Hillary: the Movie," who went to court to challenge the Federal Election Commission ruling that kept their film about now Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton off the air in 2008. While they were at it, the justices also struck down part of the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill that barred union- and corporate-paid issue ads in the closing days of election campaigns.

The ruling is potentially the second body blow to Democrats this week. President Obama is talking today about the need to put some limits on banks, blasting Wall Street for its excesses.

But the Supreme Court ruling makes corporations a new force for pro-business interests in the upcoming elections. And coming two days after Republican Scott Brown's stunning upset in winning the Senate seat in Massachusetts, the decision is cheering Republicans.

"Hurray," Republican strategist Tom Korologos wrote. "The Court read the first amendment. First Scott Brown and now this. And it’s only Thursday."

-- Johanna Neuman

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