Tag Archives: corruption

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.