DOJ: News Release

Bullock Tells Congress Campaign Finance Ruling Ignores States like Montana

Montana AG: Protect Americans from “CEO’s Politics”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Steve Bullock told a U.S. Senate panel that a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court overturning a federal ban on corporate spending on political campaigns ignored the interests of states like Montana.

Bullock testified Tuesday before the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Rules and Administration, which is weighing legislative options to preserve the integrity of elections in the wake of the court’s ruling in the Citizens United campaign finance case. The ruling jeopardizes Montana’s century-old law prohibiting businesses from freely spending from their corporate coffers to influence elections.

Montanans have a keen knowledge of corporate abuses in the political process, and corruption spurred voters in the Treasure State to pass a ballot initiative in 1912 banning corporate spending in elections, Bullock argued.

“Montanans know their history as well as they know their public officials. Over nearly a century, our limit on corporate campaign spending in candidate elections has served us well, and never been challenged. It is a system Montanans continue to believe in,” Bullock told the committee. “I am principally concerned about the ways state elections are especially vulnerable to corporate corruption, and ask you to keep these concerns in mind as you consider reforms.”

Bullock urged the panel to address concerns that foreign corporations may now influence American elections and businesses located outside of state borders may unduly influence state elections. He also recommended that the committee, “protect the shareholders who are just trying to save for retirement, and want nothing to do with some CEO’s politics.”

Corporate electioneering can also have a significant effect on the administration of justice, Bullock argued. Judicial candidates in Montana, including those for the Supreme Court, campaign on far less than the stakes in the cases they are asked to decide.

Bullock testified that political campaigns in Montana are small, low-dollar affairs, which make them even more susceptible to corruption from the open flow of corporate dollars. In 2008, Montana state senators won spending an average of $17,000, while victorious U.S. Senate campaigns spent an average of $8.5 million.

“In Montana, we have ensured that the voices of our candidates, and those who support and vote for them, are not displaced by the corporation treasuries,” Bullock added. “The Supreme Court has challenged all of us to find new ways to keep those voices heard. I look forward to working with our legislature and Congress in doing so.”

Last year, Bullock led an effort among attorneys general nationally and filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court urging them to uphold current laws and previous court rulings that strictly limit the funneling of corporate dollars into political campaigns. That brief is online.

The hearing, titled Corporate America vs. The Voter: Examining the Supreme Court’s Decision to Allow Unlimited Corporate Spending in Elections, featured Bullock, two U.S. Senators, law professors and campaign finance experts as witnesses. Bullock’s testimony is online.

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