U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today condemned the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to summarily reverse the Montana Supreme Court's ruling in American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock, a case regarding a state law that bars corporations from funding election ads. Last month, Whitehouse filed an amicus brief along with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) urging the Court to either uphold the Montana law or to hear the case in full, which would have allowed them to reconsider the disastrous Citizens United decision that has unleashed a flood of unlimited, and often anonymous, election spending by corporations, super PACs, and non-profit organizations.
"I've always believed the Citizens United decision was legally wrong; events have proven the decision to be factually wrong as well," said Whitehouse. "Its presumption that super PACs would be independent from candidates, and that there would be transparency about the special interest money polluting our elections, are both demonstrably and indisputably wrong. The conservative justices' desire to double down in the face of this and keep the corporate money flowing represents a sad day in the history of the Court. It appears to be yet another demonstration of the politicization of the Court by the right-wing justices."
Whitehouse concluded, "With the Supreme Court refusing to act, Congress should now move swiftly to pass the DISCLOSE Act."
Whitehouse is the lead sponsor of the DISCLOSE Act in the Senate. The bill would require disclosure of the identities of people and corporations spending large amounts of money to influence elections.
The brief filed by Whitehouse and McCain, which is available here, asked the Court to deny a petition to review a decision by the Montana Supreme Court, which held that the Montana legislature's ban on corporate election spending was still constitutional following Citizens United. Failing that, the brief asked the Court to give the Montana case a full review in light of the flood of anonymous money that has entered political campaigns since Citizens United.
The brief then urged the Court to "revisit Citizens United's finding that vast independent expenditures do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption," arguing that rules requiring donor disclosure and prohibiting outside groups from coordinating with campaigns have been evaded and manipulated by politically-active groups and individuals. The Senators went on to chronicle the extensive coordination that takes place between campaigns and super PACs, and the means of "identity-laundering" that allow secret donors to hide their activity. They concluded that "the campaign finance system assumed by Citizens United is no longer a reality, if it ever was."