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Supreme Court Decisions on Immigration, Campaign Finance Have Hollywood Impact

U.S. Supreme Court Building - H 2011
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court made two big decisions Monday, reaffirming its decision in Citizens United to ease campaign finance restrictions and invalidating key parts of Arizona's tough immigration law. The justices haven't yet addressed health care, but the latest round of opinions have nonetheless brought news that could mean significant ad dollars for TV stations throughout the U.S. and ease concerns voiced by prominent artists about one state's aggressiveness on the immigration front.

In the campaign finance decision, the Supreme Court decided by a 5-4 vote to strike down Montana's campaign finance restrictions. The decision reversed an outcome by a Montana state court that was largely seen as a pointed attack against Citizens United vs. FEC, the Supreme Court's 2010 landmark ruling that applied First Amendment principles to expenditures by corporations and unions in politicking and was influential in contributing the rise of Super PACs.

Many legal observers anticipated that the Supreme Court would review the case. Instead, the high court went one step further by deciding to summarily overturn the Montana decision without any oral arguments.

The Citizens United ruling has been a linchpin for controversy in the past two years but has benefited TV stations nationwide. According to a projection released this year by Needham and Co., spending on political TV ads will reach $4.9 billion this year, up from $2.8 billion in 2008.

Not everyone in Hollywood is thrilled with the development.

"Our supreme court has been co opted by big money interests," tweeted producer Judd Apatow. "It is tragic for our country. Nothing good comes of billion dollar elections."

Reacting to other others chiming in, Apatow defended the stance: "Come on. It is insane. And every new ruling makes it crazier. Should be a limit to spending. More debates."

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The Supreme Court also made another dramatic ruling Monday.

Arizona's immigration law, known as SB1070, became a lightning rod in Hollywood upon its passage in 2010. Even though a federal judge quickly issued a preliminary injunction that stopped enforcement of a law that required immigrants to maintain registration documents and police to check papers upon suspicion, many artists acted angrily to perceptions of racial profiling. Some stars including Shakira and Kanye West pledged to boycott Arizona. Other musicians including Carlos Santana, Ramon Ayala and Willie Nelson took time to record a pro-immigration song, "Si Se Puede," in reaction to protests.

On Monday, the high court voted 5-3 to invalidate key provisions of the law but have left standing for the moment the "check your papers" portion of SB1070. The majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, said that much of Arizona's immigration statute was pre-empted by the federal government's power to regulate immigration. This includes the portions of the law that criminalizes the nonpossession of immigration papers, makes it a crime for illegal immigrants to apply for work and allows police to make warrantless arrests.

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com

Twitter: @eriqgardner