Category Archives: Supreme Court

Montana, WTP, and the Supreme Court: A Tale of Irony – Part 1

by Kellye

This blog is about big money in politics and the corruption that follows it. Citizens for Truth was started as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010. This ruling effectively removed limits on the amount of money corporations and unions can spend in elections. The only requirement is that the expenditures must be independent of the candidate’s own campaign — there can be no coordination or other collaboration between the candidate or political party and the outside group.

Since that decision, the number of outside groups has increased exponentially. Each election seems to involve more money than the one before it. National elections, but also state and local, are heavily influenced by big money donors. It is often the case that big money donors in state and local elections don’t even live in the state, let alone the local areas. As a result, outside groups, along with their corporate and out-of-state donors, are calling the shots in state and local elections, not the people who actually live there. The two primary types of big money outside groups are SuperPACS and 501(c)4 “social welfare” organizations (for more information see these posts: 501(c)4sPACs, SuperPACS, 501(c)4s).

The key difference between these two groups is disclosure. SuperPACs are required to disclose donations, while 501(c)4s are not. The latter is often referred to as “dark money.”

Let’s switch gears for a moment and discuss Montana’s importance in campaign finance. Continue reading

McCutcheon v. FEC — the next Citizens United?

Stephen Spaulding, of Common Cause and the Hill’s Congress blog, recently addressed the latest threat to the fight to get money out of politics.

On Tuesday, October 8, 2013, the Supreme Court is slated to hear arguments in the case of McCutcheon v. FEC . Shaun McCutcheon, the lead plaintiff, is challenging the $123,200 limit on contributions a single donor may make to federal candidates and political party committees during any two-year election cycle… If McCutcheon prevails, he and similarly wealthy donors soon will be able to write campaign checks of up to $3.6 million a pop.

McCutcheon, in a July interview, said that he believes individuals should have “more influence” (What?! Is this a democracy or an oligarchy?). He also stated that there needs to be a “real, real good reason” to limit individuals’ ability to give to campaigns.

In fact, there is a very good reason, and it was identified by the Supreme Court in prior rulings: to avoid corruption or the appearance of corruption. In Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990), the Court concluded that large contributions do represent corruptions or at least the appearance of corruption. Earlier, the decisions in  Buckley v. Valeo (1976) and First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti (1978) presented the argument that even the appearance of corruption can be devastating, as citizens begin to lose faith in the democratic process.

All three of these precedents, however, have already been challenged by the current Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC (2010). The February blog post, Citizens United Ruling Part 3, detailed the arguments of each side. Will the Citizens United precedent stand, or will the Court go back to previous arguments to find a good reason to limit campaign contributions? The next few months will tell.

Highlights of Campaign Finance History – Part 1

by Kellye

Before the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) was passed in 1971, there were few laws to govern campaign finance at the federal level. The Tillman Act (1907) banned corporations from making political contributions to candidates in federal races. The Taft-Hartley Act (1947) barred unions from doing the same. Taft-Hartley also was the first law that prohibited both corporations and unions from making “independent expenditures” in support of or in opposition to candidates in federal elections. As will be shown in this post (Part 1) and the next (Part 2), whenever Congress would pass laws to reform campaign finance, the Supreme Court would strike down significant parts of each one of them. Continue reading

Citizens United Ruling Part 4

by Barb and Kellye

This is the final post in a 4 part series covering the 7 major questions considered in the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). This post covers the last 2 questions. One question involves whether the courts should give proper deference to legislatures in deciding if and how to regulate political spending. The other question concerns whether the playing field between media corporations and all other corporations should be leveled when it comes to unlimited free speech.

Should legislatures be given proper deference by the courts in deciding if and how to regulate corporate political spending? Continue reading

Citizens United Ruling Part 3

by Barb and Kellye

This is the third in a series of four posts outlining the 7 major questions considered by the Supreme Court in making its Citizens United decision ( Part 1,  Part 2). This post deals with two more of those major questions. One of these questions involves what corruption test should be used to determine whether campaign finance laws are needed to restrict political spending. The other question asks whether the “appearance of political corruption” erodes the public’s confidence in the democratic process. As stated at the beginning of the series, Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion and Justice Stevens the minority opinion.

Be sure to read to the end of this post to find out what the Supreme Court decided to do today. Continue reading

Citizens United Ruling Part 2

by Barb and Kellye

This is the second part of a series of posts outlining the 7 major questions considered by the Supreme Court in making its Citizens United decision (Part 1). This post deals with two of those major questions. One question involves whether the political speech rights of corporations should be curbed, and the other involves the rights of shareholders when there is disfavored corporate political speech. (Be sure to read to the end of the post; there is a link to an action that each of us can take to help minimize the effect of the Citizens United decision).

Do corporations have the right to unlimited political speech? Continue reading

Citizens United Ruling Part 1

by Barb

Overturning the Citizens United decision via constitutional amendment is a goal of Citizens for Truth as well as groups such as Rootstrikers and Move to Amend. To present our case against Citizens United, it is important for us to understand the reasoning behind both the majority and the minority opinions of the court, especially since it was a partisan 5-4 decision (as mentioned in a previous post).

This is the first part of a series of posts outlining the 7 major questions considered by the Supreme Court in making its decision and the majority and minority opinions for each. Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in the Citizens United case, and Justice Stevens wrote the minority opinion.

The first question addresses free speech: “Should Government ration, control, or limit speech for the sake of democracy?” Continue reading