Maintaining Strong Transparency Requirements for Businesses in Montana (Illinois Opportunity v. Bullock)


At a Glance

Montana has strong transparency requirements for businesses that make political contributions and expenditures while seeking lucrative contracts with state government agencies. CLC is urging the court to uphold these requirements, which advance core First Amendment principles in promoting political transparency and prevent corruption in government contracting.

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About this Case

In June 2018, Montana Governor Steve Bullock issued Executive Order No. 15-2018, which requires business entities that seek large contracts with Montana’s state government to disclose their contributions to candidates, political parties, and organizations that fund electioneering in the state. By improving the transparency of prospective contractors’ political spending, the executive order aims to reinforce public confidence in the integrity of Montana’s government and to prevent corruption in the awarding of state contracts.

Late last year, an organization called the Illinois Opportunity Project (IOP) initiated a lawsuit in federal district court seeking to invalidate Montana’s executive order. IOP claims the order violates the First Amendment because it prevents IOP and other organizations from being able to promise their donors anonymity in connection with their political contributions, including contributions to fund electioneering ads in Montana.

Along with the National Institute on Money in Politics and Common Cause, CLC filed an amicus brief this month in support of Montana’s executive order. Our brief explains that the order promotes important First Amendment interests by shining light on political spending by business entities that seek substantial government contracts with the state of Montana.

By requiring more transparency of political spending by government contractors, the executive order helps Montana voters make fully informed choices on Election Day. The executive order also guards against actual and apparent corruption in the government contracting context through greater public awareness of political donations made by business entities trying to win large contracts with the state. As CLC’s amicus brief makes clear, the U.S. Supreme Court, along with numerous lower courts, has already rejected the misguided arguments that IOP has put forth in its challenge to Montana’s disclosure requirements.

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