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When the Supreme Court on June 29 ordered re-argument in the campaign finance case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the speculation was nearly unanimous on why it took that unusual action: that the Court was ready, even eager, to overturn major precedents that have allowed the government to bar independent campaign expenditures by corporations and unions in federal elections. More than five months later, that outcome still seems probable — but the likelihood of a clear-cut, sweeping decision seems remote. Things have apparently gotten complicated in the private counsels of the Court.

On Monday morning, the Court gaveled its final session of 2009 to a close without a decision in Citizens United. Speculation has already intensified over what is causing the delay, and what it could mean. The general consensus is that a proliferation of concurrences and dissents has slowed issuance of the final ruling, pointing toward the kind of mix-and-match majority decision that will be hard to decipher — and harder to put into effect. With the 2010 congressional campaign season drawing near, that could mean confusion over the role that corporations can play in the next election.

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