Washington (CNN) - The U.S. Supreme Court has eased long-standing restrictions on "independent spending" by corporations and unions in political campaigns.
Thursday's landmark ruling, which overhauls decades of federal restrictions, has the potential to lead to a dramatic increase in campaign spending.
A close 5-4 conservative majority on Thursday crafted a narrow overhaul of federal campaign spending that could have an immediate impact on next year's congressional midterm elections.
"Our nation's speech dynamic is changing, and informative voices should not have to circumvent onerous restrictions to exercise their First Amendment rights," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy for the majority.
The conservative-led opinion radically alters the election calculus, offering greater spending flexibility for a broader range of for-profit and non-profit groups seeking a voice in the crowded national political debate.
In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, "In a democratic society, the long-standing consensus on the need to limit corporate campaign spending should outweigh the wooden applications of judge-made rules."