After Montana: What’s Next for Campaign Finance Reform?

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The Supreme Court’s summary decision to throw out the 100-year-old Montana ban on corporate donations in political campaigns signaled an end to any hope that the justices might reconsider their Citizens United decision.

Most Citizens United opponents admitted they weren’t surprised by the decision, but many expressed disappointment in the dissenting argument, which was not as strong as some had expected it would be. Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer (D) and Lieutenant Governor John Bohlinger (R) recorded a video response to the decision on Monday.

So what next?

Jeff Clements, the director of Free Speech for the People, says the coalition fighting Citizens United is committed to a “multi-pronged strategy” that involves several short- and long-term campaigns aimed at “putting American voters back in the drivers seat” of our democracy.

Here are some of the ways in which they are working to achieve that.

  1. Constitutional Amendment: Over 100 cities and towns across the country have proposed or already passed resolutions calling for an amendment to the Constitution that will essentially overturn Citizens United. Several senators, including Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Mark Begich (D-AK), Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Max Baucus (D-MT) have introduced different amendments all aimed at getting corporate money out of politics. Senators are scheduled to discuss the various proposals on July 17, 2012.

  3. DISCLOSE Act: Although the bill is considered a longshot, the disclosure legislation currently under consideration in Congress has been getting some attention of late — not all of the positive variety, which could indicate some concerns on the right. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blasted the act in a speech to the conservative American Enterprise Institute earlier this month. The Sunlight Foundation defended the bill in its blog addressing McConnell’s speech point by point.

  5. Shareholder Disclosure Rules: The Securities and Exchange Commission is considering a rule requiring corporations to fully disclose all political donations to their shareholders. Currently, shareholders can submit requests for political donation information to the companies they invest in. According to The Washington Post, 101 companies have already “agreed to disclosure and board oversight of their political donations.” At an event in Washington in February, SEC Commissioner Luis Aguilar said that “investors are not receiving adequate disclosure, and as the investor’s advocate, the commission should act swiftly to rectify the situation.”

  7. Public Financing Programs: New York City’s Brennan Center for Justice recently completed a study of that city’s small donation program which matches the first $175 a citizen donates to a political candidate by a 6-to-1 ratio, if the candidate participates in the program. New York State is considering implementing a similar system statewide.

Take Action

If you're interested in learning more about amendment campaigns, visit the United for the People website and the following pages.

If you want to show your support for the DISCLOSE Act, visit the "We Want the DISCLOSE Act" website where they are collecting signatures. Over 87,000 people have signed their petition.

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  • umabird

    Also important is the “corporations are not people” campaigns, which have wider implications than just campaign finance issues. 

    I also think  that we need a multi-pronged strategy aimed at creating public distaste for politicians who take bribes in the guise of campaign contributions. Let’s have  a PSA campaign, with ribbons, buttons and all, that equates such acceptance of private monies with bribery and corruption. This, together with establishing public financing for campaigns and encouraging grassroots support within political parties, should go a long way. Do not underestimate the disgust that many of us, the party organizers and activists, feel at the state of our politics!

  • Mamorg

    It’s sad that we have to work to rid ourselves of what the Supreme Court should never have made possible in the first place.  Shame on them — and ourselves for allowing those men to be place on the Court in the first place!

  • Geoff Badenoch

    There were people before there were corporations.  Indeed, people created corporations. People created the governments that regulate corporations.  Any time judges recognize there is an equivalence between the people and their creations, something has slipped in jurisprudence.  The political rights of corporations must ALWAYS be secondary to the political rights of natural persons.

    How hard is that? 

  • Audley D Gaston

     It goes way, way beyond ‘sad’.  Its like SCOTUS has declared war on Democracy!  Where the ‘shame’ comes in is that Mssrs  Scalia, Roberts, Alito, et al are running around gloating like some kind of High-School ball-team who just won a championship game.  Of course, you’re absolutely correct to point the finger of blame at voters who have been voting Republican for the last 30 years or so!

  • Michael Holmes

    It’s very hard when you’re the direct or indirect beneficiary of corporate money. Frankly, the supreme court should either be an elected position or have a term limit.

  • Strawman411

     I agree with your first sentence and half of the second.  But the thought of justices electioneering for office has me recoiling in horror.

    Much has been written about the legalized bribery of lawyer/contributors buying influence by funding the candidacies of lower-court judges before whom they will be appearing.

    I suspect we agree on the farce of corporations being people, but please spare us the agonies of another hugely corrupt process like, you know, the election campaigns we already have?  :-)

  • John Vargas

    Constitutional Amendments are hard to achieve and require a constitutional convention, an easier remedy is a full disclosure law so we can at least know where the message is coming from.