Court Repeats Naïve, Uninformed Errors of Its Citizens United Decision

Washington, DC – Today the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Montana Supreme Court in the case of American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock, a case that dealt with a state law passed by Montana voters to end the corrupting influence of money in candidate elections.  The League signed onto an amicus brief in support of the Montana law.

“Given an opportunity to take corrective action against the clearly corrupting influences unleashed by their 2010 decision in Citizens United, the Supreme Court seems more interested in its own abstract notion of the First Amendment than in protecting representative democracy for all citizens,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, national League President.  “The Court has repeated its naïve, uninformed errors from its Citizens United decision.”

“The First Amendment is meant to protect essential freedoms, not as a weapon to destroy American democracy.  We look forward to the day when the Supreme Court majority deals with facts rather than imposing their own ideological views,” she said.

"Montana had a long history of corruption that the Court ignored, just as it continues to ignore the corrupting influence of independent expenditures in this year's federal elections.  In this case, the Court extended Citizens United to the states, even states where there is a history of corruption,” MacNamara said.

At issue was a century old Montana law, the Corporate Practices Act (CPA), which prohibits corporations from making expenditures in campaign activities.  The CPA was a voter-adopted referendum that fought back against corporate interests and worked to end the corruption that unlimited funding caused in Montana’s government.

“The first step in overcoming the effects of the Montana decision and Citizens United is for Congress to pass the DISCLOSE Act, which would restore transparency to U.S. elections by requiring complete disclosure of spending on big-money advertising in candidate elections,” said MacNamara.  “The voters deserve to know where all the big-money is coming from before they make their decisions in the voting booth,” she said. 

“The League is deeply committed to reforming our nation’s campaign finance system to ensure the public’s right to know, combat corruption and undue influence, enable candidates to compete more equitably for public office and allow maximum citizen participation in the political process,” she said.  “We will continue this fight in Congress, with state legislatures, with the executive branch and, where appropriate, the courts.  Voters will not stand by and let our political system be corrupted by unlimited secret money,” MacNamara concluded.    

CONTACT: Kelly Ceballos,  kceballos@lwv.org