SCOTUS Refuses to Backtrack on Controversial Citizens United Decision By Thomas J. Spulak and Claudia A. Hrvatin


In a much anticipated ruling, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed a Montana Supreme Court ruling that said that a 100-year old law barring corporate independent expenditures in the state was justified by the state’s history of corruption in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Opponents of Citizens United saw the Montana case, American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock, as an opportunity to revisit the controversial ruling. However, the justices aligned in the same manner as in Citizens United and struck down the Montana law by a 5-4 vote, explaining that “the question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law. There can be no serious doubt that it does. … Montana’s arguments … were already rejected in Citizens United, or fail to meaningfully distinguish that case.”

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), the primary sponsors of legislation known as the DISCLOSE Act which would, among other things, require increased disclosure of independent expenditures permitted by Citizens United, have vowed to re-double their efforts to pass the legislation. Sources indicate that a vote may occur in the Senate soon.

Representative Van Hollen has also turned to the courts in addressing a similar issue, the disclosure of contributors who fund a specific type of independent expenditure, called an electioneering communication. Earlier this year, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found in his favor, ruling in Van Hollen v. Federal Election Commission that federal campaign finance law requires more stringent disclosure. The case is now scheduled to be heard by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on September 14

Despite these efforts, it is unlikely that there will be any significant developments that will limit the impact that the Citizens United ruling will have in the 2012 elections.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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