Supreme Court Urged to Let Stand Lower Court Decision Upholding Montana’s Corporate Expenditure Restriction

Today, the Campaign Legal Center, joined by more than a dozen other organizations, urged the U.S. Supreme Court to let stand a lower court ruling upholding Montana’s restrictions on corporate expenditures in elections.  The groups filed an amici brief in support of Montana urging the U.S. Supreme Court to deny certiorari, or if it grants certiorari, to reconsider its holding in Citizens Unitedthat independent expenditures do not result in corruption or the appearance of corruption.

“Montana has a long history of corporate exploitation of its political bodies, resulting in corruption so rampant as to help lead to the passage of the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Unsurprisingly, its highest court recognized the danger inherent in lifting the corporate spending restrictions,” said Tara Malloy, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel.  “If the Supreme Court chooses not to uphold the state Supreme Court ruling then it should grant certiorari and revisit the practical application of its own Citizens United ruling, which at the least, has led to the anonymous funding of shadow campaigns by special interests, and at worst, may result in outright corruption and political quid pro quos.”

The Legal Center website has briefs from both sides in the case including a joint brief from Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and another from a group of former FEC and state and local campaign finance and enforcement officials, including former FEC Commissioner and Chairman Trevor Potter, President of the Campaign Legal Center.

The organizations joining the Legal Center on the brief include: AARP, Center for Responsive Politics, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, League of Women Voters of the United States, Michigan Campaign Finance Network, National Institute on Money in State Politics, Progressives United, Sunlight Foundation, U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

The brief filed by the Legal Center a focuses on three primary points that undermine the rationale behind the Citizens United decision to allow corporations and unions to make independent expenditures.  First, amici argue that existing law accommodates relationships so close that “independent expenditures” are not in reality independent.  Second, the brief illustrates that current tax and campaign finance laws enable corporations to deny citizens the information necessary to “hold corporations and elected officials accountable and make informed decisions on Election Day.”  Last, even when there is disclosure of independent spending, campaign finance data is often neither accessible, nor timely enough to allow voters to make informed decisions at the polls.

“The Citizens United ruling and the justifications behind it simply have not held water in the real world,” added Malloy. “The regulatory status quo simply does not require the level of independence and disclosure from independent spending that the Court recognized as vital to the health of our democracy.”

To read the Legal Center brief, click here.

To read other briefs in the case, click here.