Supreme Court Should Uphold Montana Campaign Finance Law, Revisit Citizens United

March 27, 2012

Contact: Erik Opsal, erik.opsal@nyu.edu, 646-292-8356

In a brief filed today, attorney James Bopp called on the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Montana’s century-old law prohibiting corporations from spending money to influence elections, and to reverse a ruling by the Montana Supreme Court that upheld the ban.

The Brennan Center released the following statement from Senior Counsel Adam Skaggs urging the Court to uphold the ban:

“The Montana Supreme Court was right to uphold the state’s law banning corporate money in elections. The state’s experience with corruption, and the flood of super PAC spending today, makes clear that corporate spending in elections can give rise to the appearance and reality of corruption. The Supreme Court has an opportunity to reconsider the real-world consequences of Citizens United, and the devastating effect it has had on our democracy. The Court can improve confidence in our electoral system by reconsidering or narrowing the ill-conceived Citizens United opinion, which gave rise to the candidate-specific Super PACs that are dominating this election and making a mockery of reasonable campaign contribution limits.” 

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Although Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act is similar to the federal scheme held unconstitutional in Citizens United v. FEC, the Montana high court found that the state’s unique experience with political corruption justified the state’s tight restrictions on corporate electioneering.

In defending its law before the Supreme Court, Montana will present extensive evidence showing wholesale capture of Montana elections by corporate interests, often through spending that was formally independent of candidates. The record in this case is dramatically different from the factually threadbare record considered in Citizens United, and compels a different conclusion.

To set up an interview with the Brennan Center’s money in politics and Supreme Court experts, please contact Erik Opsal at erik.opsal@nyu.edu or 646-292-8356.