US court strikes down law limiting campaign finance

The part played by money in the democracy that is the United States threatened to expand dramatically yesterday, when the Supreme Court struck down 20-year-old campaign finance laws that greatly limited the volumes of cash corporate interests could throw at individual candidates.

Splitting down ideological lines, the court ruled by five votes to four for an end to the campaign limits that date back to 1990, dealing another political blow to the Democrats and President Barack Obama in a week that has already been less than kind to them.

The decision, handed down in a special session of the court, could have an impact on this year's mid-term elections as well as Mr Obama's hopes for re-election in 2012. Generally, corporations and corporate-backed interest groups have tended in the past to back Republican and conservative candidates. The United States Chamber of Commerce, which spent heavily on get-out-the-vote drives in favour of Republicans in 2008, has already vowed aggressively to spend money backing candidates in November this year who oppose Mr Obama on issues like climate change and healthcare reform.

The White House commented, "With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans."