Trevor Potter Weighs in on Senator Hawley’s Push to Overturn Citizens United


Trevor Potter, president of Campaign Legal Center (CLC), and a Republican Former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), released the following statement: 

“Our campaign finance system needs reform. The laws governing money in politics have not been meaningfully updated in the 13 years since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which unleashed a torrent of corporate and special interest spending in our elections, much of which is never disclosed to the public. As a result, the voices of everyday Americans are being drowned out by special interests, and voters are being denied their right to know who is spending money to influence their vote.  

Addressing these concerns should be a bipartisan priority in Congress, and more Republican support to address the problems created by Citizens United is welcome. However, the “Ending Corporate Influence on Elections Act,” a bill that Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri introduced this week, is not a serious effort to fix these serious problems. This bill would do nothing at all to address the problem of secret election spending by obscure nonprofit organizations that do not disclose their donors. Often referred to as “dark money” groups, these entities spent more than $1 billion influencing the 2020 election, according to an estimate by the nonpartisan nonprofit OpenSecrets. Indeed, Sen. Hawley’s bill would only prohibit election spending by a “publicly traded corporation,” which means it targets only a small part of the larger corporate influence problem stemming from Citizens United. 

Despite its many deficiencies, Sen. Hawley’s bill clearly struck a nerve with those who routinely oppose campaign finance reform. According to recent reports, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell responded to the bill’s introduction by privately reminding Sen. Hawley — and other Senators who might consider supporting the bill — that they owed their seats to the millions of dollars of support they received from the Senate Leadership Fund (SLF), a McConnell-aligned super PAC that routinely accepts corporate money. Sen. McConnell reportedly informed his colleagues that if they supported this ban on corporate election spending, they could expect “incoming” attacks from the right.  

Contrary to Sen. McConnell’s comments, however, polls consistently show that support for campaign finance reform is strong across ideological lines. According to the Pew Research Center, more than seven-in-ten American adults say that there should be limits on the amount of money individuals and organizations can spend on political campaigns. Although Sen. Hawley’s bill misses the mark, more Republican Members of Congress ought to heed the will of their constituents and engage in the fight to strengthen our democracy.”