The Supreme Court strengthened its Citizens United case Monday when it struck down a 100-year-old Montana ban on corporate spending in state and local elections.
In a summary reversal that had no oral arguments, justices ruled 5-to-4 against the state along the same lines it did for the controversial 2010 decision that allows for unlimited spending by companies and unions in federal campaigns.
Locally, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Congressman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., have sat on opposite sides of this debate.
McConnell issued a statement praising the high court's ruling as a victory for the First Amendment and exaggerated claims of corporate control.
In another important victory for freedom of speech, the Supreme Court has reversed the Montana Supreme Court, upholding First Amendment free speech rights that were set out in Citizens United. As I pointed out in an amicus brief that I filed in the Montana case, a review of Federal Election Commission records of independent spending supporting the eight Republican presidential candidates earlier this year showed only minimal corporate involvement in the 2012 election cycle.
Not one Fortune 100 company contributed a cent to any of the eight Republican Super PACs, as of the end of March, according to FEC records. The records also showed that of the $96 million contributed to the eight Super PACs through March 31, an overwhelming 86.32 percent of that money came from individuals while only 13.68 percent came from corporations and 0.81 percent from public companies. Clearly, the much predicted corporate tsunami that critics of Citizens United warned about simply did not occur
Judicial observers note that this demonstrates the original five justices who approved the 2010 case have not changed their minds.
For months, Yarmuth has shot verbal arrows at McConnell over Citizens United, and criticized the Senator's opposition to the Disclose Act. He says the decision has major implications for the future of American elections and criticized the ruling
"The disastrous Citizens United decision opened the floodgates for special-interest influence in Washington, and I am dismayed that the Supreme Court didn’t take this opportunity with the Montana case to reconsider it – especially now that we’re seeing the damage it is causing to our democracy,” Yarmuth said. “Super PACs have spent more than $100 million in campaigns so far this year, and they aren’t spending millions for a stronger government that better serves the American people. They’re trying to buy our government for their own special interests."
Last year, Yarmuth proposed a Constitutional amendment to overturn a key provision of Citizens United and establish that financial expenditures and in-kind contributions do not qualify as protected free speech. It also enables Congress to create a public financing system that would serve as the sole source of funding for federal elections.