On Monday, June 25, 2012, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to overturn a long-standing Montana law banning independent corporate expenditures for or against electoral candidates. The case is called American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock. Now, corporations and unions can spend unlimited amounts of money in support or opposition of a candidate in Montana. Essentially, federal standards set in place by the Citizens United case will now apply to Montana.
This case has several implications for the future. For those of us working to reduce the corrosive effects of money in politics, it precipitates challenges as well as opportunities.
Since corporations and unions can spend any amount of money independent of candidates, they will have the ability to dominate the public conversation during campaigns and dictate the priority of specific issues for candidates. Although this is a blow for limiting special interest influence of elections, it will undoubtedly heighten the public awareness of and concern regarding this issue.
Additionally, the ruling strengthens the argument for a constitutional amendment to remedy the damage done by the Citizens United decision since it is now clear that the Court will not change course. Leaders from Public Citizen and Free Speech for People have posited that the Montana ruling will help push us toward an amendment.
With the Supreme Court set on the side of deregulating money spent on elections, and with an uncertain future of new elected officials from local races to the White House, the sense of urgency for the movement to amend the constitution is immense. In moments like these, it is easy to become frustrated and question the value of activism. However, it is also in moments like these that we can become the most impassioned and motivated to work harder. We must use the developments in Montana to our advantage and raise public awareness about the corrosion of justice as well as the feasible solutions.
Money affects political outcomes at every level of government. We must remember that there is a myriad of solutions that we can support. While we remain focused on our goal of passing Clean Elections within Texas, we must also keep the possibility of a Constitutional amendment on our radar and be ready to act in support.
By Cody Meador. Cody is President of Clean Elections Texas and a ninth grade English teacher in Dallas. She has been involved in campaign finance reform efforts since organizing for Democracy Matters in college.