McConnell: SCOTUS Campaign Finance Decision an ‘Important Victory’ for Free Speech
(CNSNews.com) – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the Supreme Court’s decision overturning a Montana campaign finance law an “important victory for freedom of speech,” saying that critics of unrestricted campaign spending had been proven wrong.
“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,” McConnell said in a statement.
McConnell criticized liberal supporters of campaign finance law who had predicted that the striking down of limits on corporate spending in elections – as a result of the Citizens United v. FEC case in 2010 -- would unleash a flood of money from major corporations. McConnell stressed that, according to government data, that wave of spending by corporations never materialized.
“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,” said McConnell. “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,” said the Senate Minority leader.
In the case ruled on today, American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock, advocates challenged a Montana law enacting limits on what unions and corporations could spend during elections in Montana.
Campaign finance opponents, including McConnell who filed an amicus brief in the case, alleged that Montana had violated First Amendment rights the Supreme Court had originally outlined in the Citizens United case in 2010.
The Court ruled 5-4 that the expanded First Amendment rights it recognized in Citizens United covered state laws as well.
“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,” the majority said in an unsigned decision.
“Montana’s arguments in support of the judgment below either were already rejected in Citizens United, or fail to meaningfully distinguish that case.”
In the case, Montana had argued that the history of political corruption in the state was reason enough to uphold its early-20th century law banning corporations from making independent election expenditures.
In its 2010 Citizens United decision, the Court ruled that corporations and unions had the right under the First Amendment to spend money to influence elections, and that federal laws limiting how they might do so were unconstitutional restrictions on that right. The decision marked the first time that the Supreme Court had endorsed the idea that the First Amendment granted free speech rights to corporations.
The Court said that election spending was the equivalent of protected speech, ruling that corporations could not be barred from using their own money to publish advertisements, written material, or other forms of speech during an election.
The Montana decision essentially reaffirmed what the Court said in 2010: that corporations and unions have a First Amendment right to spend money to influence elections, that such spending constitutes free speech and is protected.