For Immediate Release National Reform Organizations Urge U.S. Supreme Court to Conduct Careful Review of Montana's Corporate Campaign Spending Ban

Posted on February 18, 2012


Mary Boyle, Common Cause, (202) 736-5770

John Bonifaz, Free Speech for People, (413) 253-2700

CB Pearson, Common Cause Montana, (406) 544-0032

National Reform Organizations Urge U.S. Supreme Court to Conduct Careful Review of Montana's Corporate Campaign Spending Ban

Supreme Court Justices Breyer and Ginsburg Call for Reconsideration of Citizens United Ruling

Two leading national reform organizations urged the U.S. Supreme Court today to carefully review and uphold Montana's century-old Corrupt Practices Act, which bans corporate spending on elections.

The call, by Common Cause and Free Speech For People, comes a day after the nation's highest court at least temporarily blocked enforcement of the Montana law. The justices will consider whether to undertake a full review of the law, a Montana Supreme Court ruling in December upholding it, and allegations that both are in conflict with Citizens United v. FEC, the 2010 decision in which the Supreme Court swept away longstanding restrictions on corporate and union spending on federal elections.

Given license to spend by Citizens United and other high court decisions, corporations and millionaire donors are pouring six- and seven-figure donations into new "Super PACs" supporting President Obama and each of his potential Republican challengers. "Ostensibly independent, the Super PACs are operating as adjuncts of the campaigns," said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. "Several are run by longtime associates of the candidates, drawing huge donations from their relatives, friends and former business partners, and creating major openings for corruption," he noted.

"Montana's highest court carefully studied state laws and precedents and concluded that corporate political spending can be regulated without endangering free speech," Edgar added. "Montana has it right, and the U.S. Supreme Court should take the advice of Justices Ruth Bader

Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer and use this Montana case to reconsider Citizens United."

In an unusual statement issued Friday, Ginsburg and Breyer argued that "Montana's experience, and experience elsewhere since this Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations 'do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption'."

The Justices added that the Montana case "will give the Court the opportunity to consider whether, in light of the huge sums currently deployed to buy candidates' allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway."

"In Montana, we believe in honesty and having a fair say; the people of Montana deserve the right to their day in court on the full merits of our 100-year-old law that has protected us from the corrupting influence of corporate money," said C.B. Pearson, a board member of Common Cause Montana.

"The U.S. Supreme Court should let the State of Montana be heard on this matter of critical importance to the integrity of its elections," said John Bonifaz, co-founder and executive director of Free Speech For People. "The Montana Supreme Court considered a century of experience with the state's Corrupt Practices Act. Montana deserves that same careful consideration from the U.S. Supreme Court."

Common Cause and Free Speech for People are part of a broad coalition of reform groups exploring ways in which individual Montanans can voice their concerns about corporate political spending - at the ballot box.

"Montana has it right - corporations can't vote, and giving corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns is a carte blanche invitation to corruption and defies common sense," said Pearson.

"We're convinced that if our senators and representatives get that message directly from the voters, they'll pass and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment allowing us to put sensible limits on campaign spending."

Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.

Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Money in Politics

Tags: Exposing Corporate Power, Fighting Big Money

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