Editorials: Where Did They Get the Money For That? | NYTimes.com

Over the past few weeks, voters in early primary and caucus states have been deluged by political advertising. Some of the ads are pure hagiography, while others are slashing. Disclaimers tell viewers which candidate or group with a soothing name is responsible in each case. But even as they choose from among the Republican presidential candidates, voters haven’t been able to find out who is really behind the spots – who has been putting up the big money it takes to make and air these messages.

National: New super PAC breed pushed by group | Politico.com

Corporate- or union-sponsored political action committees should be free to raise and spend unlimited sums of money, a conservative nonprofit corporation tells the Federal Election Commission in a new advisory opinion request. In it, attorney Dan Backer asks the FEC to consider allowing PACs connected to corporations, unions and trade associations to create super PACs within their structure – effectively creating hybrid PACs.“

National: RNC Fights For Corporate Right To Give Money To Candidates And Party Committees | Huffington Post

In the latest GOP effort to accord corporations the same rights as people, the Republican National Committee wants to strike down the century-old ban against direct corporate contributions to candidates and party committees. The ban, part of a 1907 anti-corruption law that helped curb the influence of corporate robber barons, is one of the last bulwarks of campaign finance law left after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision two years ago. Despite the explosion of so-called independent super PACs, which can collect unlimited contributions, corporations remain banned from making contributions directly to candidates or party committees.

National: Will Obama Issue an Order Exposing Big Corporate Political Spenders in Citizens United Era? | AlterNet

A executive order requiring that federal contractors disclose their electoral spending—by top officers and as corporations—is being reconsidered by the White House despite stiff opposition from the business lobby after it was first proposed last spring, according to civil rights attorneys working on the issue. “There’s a lot of movement at the White House,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen. “I just had a meeting at the White House counsel’s office, trying to encourage them to move forward with the executive order. They have the perfect window of opportunity to get the executive order done.”

Editorials: The power of super PACs | The Washington Post

“Well, of course, it’s former staff of mine. And, of course they’re people who supportme. They wouldn’t be putting money into a PAC that supports me if they weren’t people who support me.” That was former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in Sunday’s “Meet the Press” debate on NBC, asked about millions of dollars’ worth of ads being run on his behalf by a super PAC called “Restore Our Future.” Mr. Romney, with his casual “of course it’s former staff of mine,” offered about as succinct an illustration as we’ve seen of the flimsiness of the fiction that separates these candidate-specific super PACs from the candidates and of the danger that this development poses to a campaign finance system premised on limited contributions and full disclosure.

National: GOP: Corporate donation ban unconstitutional | Politico.com

The century-old ban on corporate donations to federal political campaigns should be junked as unconstitutional, the Republican National Committee argued in a legal brief filed Tuesday that could lead to new attacks on the GOP as beholden to corporate money. The GOP brief filed with a federal appeals court contends that the ban which became law back in 1908 violates the First Amendment in light of recent Supreme Court rulings, including the 2010 Citizens United decision which allowed unlimited donations to independent-expenditure groups.

National: McCain: Super PACs will result in scandal, corruption | CNN.com

Republican Sen. John McCain on Monday blasted the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling that eventually paved the way for the rise of super PACs, blaming it for the election cycle’s increasing ad wars. “Now it’s the system under which we operate, which leads to this kind of campaigning and will lead to corruption and scandals. I guarantee it.” McCain said on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”

Voting Blogs: Issacharoff: Clarity About Super PACs, Independent Money and Citizens United | Election Law Blog

It is almost two years since the Supreme Court handed down Citizens United.  In that time, the opinion has come to serve as a popular shorthand for all that is wrong with the campaign finance system.  With the emergence of Super PACs as the latest vehicle for sidestepping contribution limitations, the overwhelming temptation is to attribute this latest money pit to the Supreme Court’s contributions to this woeful area of law.  For example, just today, the New York Times intones, “A $5 million check from Sheldon Adelson underscores how a Supreme Court ruling has made it possible for a wealthy individual to influence an election.”

Editorials: Super PACs: The WMDs of Campaign Finance | Ben W. Heineman/The Atlantic

Super PACs can receive unlimited contributions and make unlimited campaign expenditures for or against a candidate, often with actual donors hidden from view. This election year will see an exponential growth in their number and in the funds available to them. Partisans from left and right will use them. No reforms to limit them will occur. And there is a looming war of attrition as the negative, superficial cannonading of Super PACs in political ads threatens to obliterate any semblance of a policy debate.

Exhibit A (we will likely run the alphabet this year) is Restore Our Future, the Super PAC organized by the political director of Mitt Romney’s 2008 campaign and supposedly “independent” of the Romney campaign itself. On November 30, 2011, Newt Gingrich led Mitt Romney in Iowa by a 14 percentage point margin (31 percent to 17 percent), per a New York Times/CBS poll. In the next 30 days, Restore Our Future spent more than $3 million on negative, anti-Gingrich ads — twice the amount spent by the Romney campaign itself. The final result: Romney in first (barely) with 25 percent of the vote, Gingrich in fourth, with 13 percent of the vote.

Editorials: The biggest danger of Super PACs | Rick Hasen/CNN.com

This election season, the term “Super PAC” has escaped from the obscure world of campaign finance lawyers to emerge on the front pages of major newspapers and political websites. Super PACs are political organizations that can take unlimited sums from individuals, corporations and labor unions to spend in support of, or opposition to, federal candidates. To do so legally, a Super PAC must avoid certain forms of coordination with candidates.

The groups played a big role in Iowa, with a pro-Mitt Romney Super PAC, “Restore Our Future,” widely credited with running ads that halted Newt Gingrich’s momentum in the polls. They are expected to play an even greater role in the fall, when control of the White House, Senate and U.S. House of Representatives will be up for grabs.

Voting Blogs: Battle of the Supremes – The Montana high court upholds the state’s anti-corruption laws—and challenges Citizens United in the process | Elizabeth Kennedy/American Prospect

The Montana Supreme Court in Helena stands just off the main drag, dramatically called Last Chance Gulch Street. The picturesque setting is fitting for an institution that has just challenged the U.S. Supreme Court to a legal showdown on the enormously important question of whether corporations should have an unfettered right to dominate elections or whether citizens have the right to adopt commonsense protections to defend democratic government from corruption.  Get the kids off the streets, because this could be an epic confrontation.

In upholding the section of Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act that restricts direct corporate political spending, the Montana Supreme Court attacked the Citizens United fiction that independent expenditures aren’t corrupting and that corporate political spending isn’t a danger to democratic government. The Montana jurists’ decision in Western Tradition Partnership states unequivocally, “The impact of unlimited corporate donations creates a dominating impact on the political process and inevitably minimizes the impact of individual citizens.” The decision will no doubt be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But two years after the Citizens United decision, there has been ample evidence of the harm it’s inflicted on our electoral system.

Editorials: Super PACs alter the dynamics of fundraising | The Washington Post

Well-established candidates have always had the edge in fundraising, but under the new rules governing money in politics, it looks as if the rich are just getting richer. The vast majority of the $14 million in spending from “super PACs,” a new type of political group, has been spent on behalf of three candidates: Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman Jr., federal records show. Those are the same three candidates already most reliant on money from large donors.

“It’s just proven to be a vehicle for getting around contribution limits,” said Michael Malbin, a scholar at the Campaign Finance Institute, which advocates for regulations encouraging small donors. “It’s made for people who’ve already maxed out.”

Two years after the Supreme Court decided the landmark Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, it is becoming clear that the super PACs created under the new rules will act as a counterweight to a rise in online grass-roots fundraising. The online efforts, which tend to attract small donations, have been driving unconventional contenders in the GOP field, including Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.). (Bachmann dropped out of the race last week after a sixth-place finish in Iowa.)

Editorials: Super PAC debate a sign they’re here to stay | Kenneth P. Vogel/Politico.com

There’s no better evidence that the Republican presidential field has embraced super PACs as a driving force in their campaign than the debate over what to do about them. Mitt Romney has called for the abolition of super PACs, while he and Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman have distanced themselves from the groups, suggested they should be more transparent or at least less negative.

But the hand-wringing over the new breed of deep-pocketed outside groups has become a process debate – wrapped in the language of legal arcana and plausible deniability. And, when the candidates are pushed to call for an end to the ads or changes to the legal landscape that spawned them, they mostly back down. It’s a kabuki dance that allows candidates to keep their hands clean even as they become major players in a new big-money system that seems likely to dominate presidential politics for the foreseeable future.

Voting Blogs: Facts, Darn Facts, and Super PACs | Brennan Center for Justice

Recently, the Montana Supreme Court upheld the state’s ban on corporate independent expenditures. This is a direct rebuke of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which struck down a federal ban on corporate independent expenditures, largely based on the assumption that such spending inherently cannot corrupt elected officials.

The majority opinion in Citizens United, authored by Justice Kennedy, concluded that “independent expenditures do not lead to, or create the appearance of, quid pro quo corruption” and that “there is only scant evidence that independent expenditures even ingratiate.” But, thanks to a procedural quirk, the case shot up to the Supreme Court before anyone in the case could engage in any real fact-finding. So, Kennedy’s conclusion was little more than an untested hypothesis, not supported by any hard evidence.

When presented with evidence of corruption in a similar case, Justice Kennedy came to a totally different conclusion. Caperton v. Massey dealt with a West Virginia Supreme Court justice who failed to recuse himself from a case involving a CEO who spent nearly $3 million on independent expenditures in support of the justice’s election. Because the independent expenditures constituted the vast majority of spending in the judicial election, Justice Kennedy concluded that the justice should have recused himself because “no man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, [and] similar fears of bias can arise when…a man chooses the judge in his own cause.”

Voting Blogs: Argument preview: Texas, the courts, and minority voters | SCOTUSblog

At 1 p.m. on Monday, the Supreme Court will hold 70 minutes of argument in three cases — being heard on an expedited schedule — on the new election districts that Texas will use in 2012 balloting for the state legislature and for its expanded delegation in Congress.  Arguing for the state of Texas, with 30 minutes of time, will be former U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement, now in private practice in Washington with the Bancroft law firm.  He will be followed by Principal Deputy U.S. Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan, arguing for the federal government as an amicus, with ten minutes.  Arguing next, for the challengers to the state legislature’s redistricting maps, with 30 minutes, will be Jose Garza, a private attorney in San Antonio who has been representing the Mexican American Legislative Caucus in these cases.


Just as the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling two years ago in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has become a major influence on the financing of the 2012 elections, the Court’s coming decision this Term on three legislative redistricting cases from Texas may have a strong impact on who wins some key election contests — and might even help settle control of the new U.S. House in the Congress that gathers next January.   The ruling also may bring a severe test of the constitutionality of America’s most important law on the voting opportunities of minorities, the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  For a case that could be decided on very narrow grounds, it has developed potentially historic proportions.

Montana: SCOTUS expected to weigh Montana campaign finance appeal | Politico.com

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to wade into the hot-button debate over corporate cash in politics again, just in time for the 2012 election season. The conservative group American Tradition Partnership announced plans Thursday to appeal a Montana Supreme Court ruling that upheld a state law banning corporations from spending to directly support or oppose candidates.

Campaign finance experts predict that the court will almost certainly address the ruling, since it’s seen as a direct challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision that allowed corporations, unions and other special interests to use their treasury funds to make or fund political ads that support or oppose political candidates.

… At least one justice on the Montana court isn’t expecting the state law to stand. “Citizens United is the law of the land, and this Court is duty-bound to follow it,” said Montana Supreme Court Justice James Nelson, one of the two dissenting judges in the 5-2 ruling issued on Dec. 30. “When this case is appealed to the Supreme Court, as I expect it will be, a summary reversal on the merits would not surprise me in the least,” he wrote. But campaign finance reform advocates see opportunity in re-opening the contentious debate at the federal level.

Editorials: Montana Supreme Court, Citizens United: Can Montana get away with defying the Supreme Court? | Slate Magazine

On the rare occasions when the world talks to you in stereo, it’s a good idea to set aside your knitting and listen. This week, Americans got their first good look at what super PACs—political organizations that can receive unlimited corporate contributions and make unlimited expenditures for federal candidates—have wrought in Iowa. At the same time, the Montana Supreme Court issued a stunning opinion last Friday, upholding the state’s law limiting corporate election spending. Think of the two as a sort of woofer and tweeter for life in a post-Citizens United world.

The impact of the so-called super PAC on the Iowa election has been profound. Just ask Newt Gingrich, who was clobbered by almost a third of the more than $14 million in super-PAC ad money spent in the weeks before the caucus. When the court handed down that decision in 2010, it assumed both that these expenditures would be independent of the candidate’s official campaigns (they’re not; one is financed by Jon Huntsman’s dad) and that disclosure rules would ensure that Americans knew who was buying and selling their elections (we don’t).

Ruth Marcus has a great piece explaining all the ways in which the super PACs are both coordinating with campaigns and evading federal disclosure requirements. She notes that this was the inevitable consequence of both the Citizens United decision and subsequent lower-court rulings. Whether he meant to or not, she writes, Justice Anthony Kennedy, with his majority opinion in that case, managed to “clear the path for independent expenditure committees backing a particular candidate—and bankrolled by the candidate’s father or run by his former top aides.”

Voting Blogs: Western Populism and Corporate Electioneering: The Montana Supreme Court | Election Law Blog

One of the historical oddities about today’s debates over corporate money and elections is that the issue maps so directly onto partisan political differences, at least among national political players.  As I’ve noted before, the deeper, long-term pattern historically has been quite different.  Starting at least in the Jacksonian era, with Andrew Jackson’s war on the Bank of the United States — in significant part, because of allegations that the Bank was playing a role in partisan political contests — there have been longstanding alliances against corporate money in politics that united more conservative populists in the west and midwest with more liberal progressives in the east and that transcended conventional partisan divisions.

Arizona’s John McCain, of course, was a principal architect of the restrictions on corporate electioneering the Supreme Court struck down in Citizens United.  And within the US Supreme Court, manifestations of that deep historical pattern can be seen in the fact that several Justices from the western United States who otherwise were considered conservatives or moderates strongly endorsed the power of government to limit the role of corporate money in elections — Justice O’Connor (from Arizona), Justice White (from Colorado), and Justice Rehnquist (sixteen years in private practice in Arizona). But there is no one on the Court now who appears to reflect that western-style populist resistance to corporate electioneering.

Montana: Double Barrel Blast From Big Sky Country: Montana Rejects Citizens United | Ciara Torres-Spelliscy/Huffington Post

On December 30, 2011, by a vote of 5 to 2 the Montana Supreme Court decided that Montana’s ban on corporate political expenditures dating back to 1912 could stand. In a hard hitting decision, the U.S. Supreme Court’s take on the role of corporate money in politics in 2010’s Citizens United was challenged by both the majority and a dissent. The Montana Court slammed Citizens United from both barrels.

Barrel number one is the majority opinion, which relies on the particular history of Montana to uphold the constitutionality of the Corrupt Practices Act, a voter initiative, which was adopted on the heels of rampant corporate corruption at the behest of out of state mining interests. As the majority wrote: “the Montana law at issue in this case cannot be understood outside the context of the time and place it was enacted, during the early twentieth century.”

Montana’s “Copper Kings” as they were known bought judges, influenced the legislature and nearly monopolized the state’s mass media of the day — its newspapers. The corruption had federal aspects as well as. One U.S. senator from Montana, W. A. Clark, was expelled because the Senate concluded he had won his seat through bribery. The people of Montana chose to protect their democracy from this type of mischief by outlawing corporate spending in Montana’s elections.

National: Three Campaign-Finance Lawsuits On the Heels of ‘Citizens’ | Law.com

Three key campaign-finance challenges, one already at the U.S. Supreme Court, seek to push through doors left open by the justices’ controversial Citizens United decision. Advocates and opponents of campaign-finance regulations are watching, in particular, U.S. v. Danielczyk, now being briefed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. The government is appealing a district court ruling that struck down the federal ban on direct corporate contributions to candidates.

The two other challenges tackle federal prohibitions against foreign campaign contributions and contributions by individuals with federal contracts. “These lawsuits are all at least theoretically outgrowths from Citizens United,” said Tara Malloy of the Campaign Legal Center. In Citizens United v. FEC, a 5-4 Court struck down the federal ban on the use of general treasury funds by corporations for independent campaign expenditures. “Citizens United is, of course, not directly on point in terms of the law, but its reasoning is certainly being used in new areas of campaign-finance law,” said Malloy. The plaintiffs in the three cases are using, to different degrees, language in Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion that campaign-finance regulations cannot discriminate based on the identity of the speaker, Malloy said. “This is not necessarily even the holding but it is this type of reasoning that is being leveraged,” she added.

Editorials: Citizen Bopp | The American Prospect

Wedged up against the Illinois border on the banks of the Wabash River, Terre Haute, Indiana, has seen better days. Many factories have closed, and downtown has too many vacant storefronts. But there are signs of activity: Indiana State University has grown, the federal prison still provides reliable jobs—and the ten-lawyer litigation machine that occupies the offices of attorney James Bopp Jr. at the corner of 6th and Wabash is going full tilt.

Bopp is best known as the lawyer behind a case involving a 90-minute film made in 2008 attacking then–presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Bopp’s suit ultimately resulted in the landmark 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, in which the Supreme Court held that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts such as the movie and its promotional ads were legitimate expressions of free speech and couldn’t be limited by campaign-finance laws. The ruling overturned key restrictions on the use of corporate and union money in politics. Bopp is already well into the next phase of his crusade to topple as many of the state and federal limits on the role of money in politics as can be done in one man’s lifetime.

Over the past 30 years, Bopp has been at the forefront of litigation strategies that have reshaped campaign-finance law inexorably. Having helped pave the way for spending in the 2012 elections that’s likely to exceed the 2008 level by several billions, Bopp is already well into the next phase of his crusade to topple as many of the state and federal limits on the role of money in politics as can be done in one man’s lifetime. His targets include two of the few remaining bedrock principles of money-and-politics law: disclosure mandates and the prohibition against unions and corporations giving directly to candidates and parties. He’s also juggling cases that go after dollar limits on contributions, attack elements of public-financing programs, and chisel away at other facets of the regulatory regime.

Montana: Supreme Court upholds state ban on corporation spending | Billings Gazette

The Montana Supreme Court on Friday overturned a lower court’s ruling and reinstated the state’s century-old ban on direct spending by corporations for or against political candidates. The justices ruled 5-2 in favor of the state attorney general’s office and commissioner of political practices to uphold the initiative passed by Montana voters in 1912.

Western Tradition Partnership, a conservative political group now known as American Tradition Partnership, joined by Champion Painting Inc., and the Montana Shooting Sports Association Inc., had challenged the Montana ban after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The U.S. Supreme Court decision granted political speech rights to corporations. District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock of Helena ruled that the U.S. Supreme Court decision rendered the Montana ban unconstitutional. But the Montana Supreme Court’s majority saw it differently and overturned Sherlock.

Montana: A Citizens United sequel: different result | SCOTUSblog

The Montana Supreme Court on Friday put to work its own view of what the Supreme Court had decided in the controversial ruling allowing massive corporate spending in political campaigns, and came out differently: the state court upheld a 99-year-old state ban on the use of corporations’ own money to support or oppose any candidate in state elections.   The 5-2 ruling, including two dissenting opinions, is here.  One of the dissenters predicted that the ruling would not survive an inevitable appeal to the Justices, and might be overturned without even a close look.

Both the majority and the dissenters treated the voter-approved Corrupt Practices Act as a flat ban on independent spending of corporations’ internal funds to support or oppose specific candidates for state office — independent in the sense that the financial effort was not coordinated with a candidate.  Thus, the measure was nearly identical to the ban in federal law that was struck down by the Supreme Court in January of last year in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Montana: State Supreme Court Upholds State’s Century-Old Ban on Corporate Money in Elections | freespeechforpeople.org

The Montana Supreme Court today upheld Montana’s century-old ban on corporate political expenditures in state elections. The Court’s 5-2 ruling sets up the first direct challenge to the US Supreme Court’s January 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which equated corporations with people under the First Amendment and swept away longstanding precedent that had barred corporate expenditures in federal elections. Montana’s 1912 Corrupt Practices Act came under legal attack following the Citizens United decision, and Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock has vigorously defended the state’s law in the Montana courts, leading to today’s state supreme court ruling.

“[T]he State of Montana, or more accurately its voters, clearly had a compelling interest to enact the challenged statute in 1912,” wrote Chief Justice Mike McGrath for the Court’s the majority opinion in the case of Western Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. State of Montana. “At that time the State of Montana and its government were operating under a mere shell of legal authority, and the real social and political power was wielded by powerful corporate managers to further their own business interests.”

Editorials: Will Foreigners Decide The 2012 Election? The Extreme Unintended Consequences Of Citizens United. | Rick Hasen/The New Republic

Let’s say that the leader of a foreign country, one with military or economic interests adverse to the United States, took a look at our 2012 elections and decided to spend millions of dollars in hopes of determining which party held control over the House, the Senate, or the White House. Most of us would consider that scenario highly distressing, to say the least.

In that way, it’s easy to understand why current federal law was designed to bar most foreign individuals, entities, and governments from spending money to influence U.S. elections and contributing to candidates. And this isn’t a law that inspires much opposition in Washington: Neither party asserts that foreigners have a First Amendment right to participate in our elections. But given the twisted logic of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the law’s constitutionality is now in question.

National: Under the U.S. Supreme Court: Unveiling secret corporate political money | UPI.com

The Securities and Exchange Commission is being flooded with support for a proposed regulation that would undo at least some of the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission — which opened the floodgates to often secret corporate political contributions that threaten to swamp American elections.

The proposed SEC regulation requested by a committee of professors on corporate law would require “public companies to disclose to shareholders the use of corporate resources for political activities.” In other words, even if corporate executives now earmarking company money for political candidates and parties would not have to reveal the recipients to the public or the media, they would have to disclose the amounts and recipients to stockholders. The SEC has been considering the rule since it was proposed in August.

Montana: Supreme Court upholds state ban on corporation spending | Billings Gazette

The Montana Supreme Court on Friday overturned a lower court’s ruling and reinstated the state’s century-old ban on direct spending by corporations for or against political candidates. The justices ruled 5-2 in favor of the state attorney general’s office and commissioner of political practices to uphold the initiative passed by Montana voters in 1912.

Western Tradition Partnership, a conservative political group now known as American Tradition Partnership, joined by Champion Painting Inc., and the Montana Shooting Sports Association Inc., had challenged the Montana ban after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The U.S. Supreme Court decision granted political speech rights to corporations.