In Challenge to Citizens United, Free Speech for People & Business Groups File Supreme Court Brief

Free Speech for People has filed a brief in the Supreme Court in American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock, a case that challenges Citizens United v. FEC and raises the issue of whether the State of Montana can prohibit election spending by corporations. The people of Montana enacted the corporate spending restriction by referendum in 1912. The Montana Supreme Court upheld the law in December, notwithstanding Citizens United, and a corporate lobbying/spending entity has appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Free Speech for People brief, joined by the American Sustainable Business Council, the American Independent Business Alliance, and a Montana business corporation, is here.  Free Speech for People’s press release is here, and below.

FREE SPEECH FOR PEOPLE AND BUSINESS GROUPS URGE US SUPREME COURT TO REVERSE CITIZENS UNITED 

MONTANA’S BAN ON CORPORATE MONEY IN ELECTIONS PRESENTS
FIRST DIRECT CHALLENGE TO 2010 RULING
 
Amicus Brief Filed Before the Supreme Court 

WASHINGTON, DC — A coalition that includes two national business networks and a local Montana business filed a brief today before the United States Supreme Court urging it to revisit and reverse its ruling in Citizens United v. FEC.

The 2010 ruling faces its first direct challenge in a case dealing with Montana’s century-old ban on corporate political expenditures. In late December, the Montana Supreme Court upheld Montana’s 1912 Corrupt Practices Act in American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock, setting the stage for this new test case before the US Supreme Court.

The coalition is led by Free Speech For People, a national campaign to overturn Citizens United. Other signatories to the brief include the American Sustainable Business Council, representing a network of more than 100,000 businesses across the country; the American Independent Business Alliance, based in Bozeman, Montana; and Mike’s Thriftway, a supermarket business in Chester, Montana.

The brief argues that the facts which have developed in the two years since the Citizens United decision demonstrate that the Court was wrong in ruling that unlimited corporate spending in our elections would not present a threat of corruption or the appearance of corruption. The brief also argues that corporations should not be treated as people with constitutional rights and that the government’s interest in preventing corporate and wealthy donors from drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens justifies restrictions on election expenditures, such as the ban in the Montana Corrupt Practices Act.

“By granting corporations a constitutional right to spend unlimited corporate funds on elections, at the expense of the people’s right to prevent the resulting corruption and distortion of our electoral process, the Citizens Unitedruling undermines First Amendment values and the integrity of our republican democracy itself,” says Ben Clements, the author of the coalition’s brief. Clements, a Board member of Free Speech For People, is a former federal prosecutor, former chief counsel to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and a founding partner of the Boston law firm of Clements & Pineault. “The US Supreme Court should accept the Montana case for review on its merits and should use this opportunity to revisit and reverse Citizens United,” Clements added.

On February 17, 2012, the US Supreme Court issued a stay of the Montana Supreme Court’s ruling, thereby preventing the continued enforcement of the state’s Corrupt Practices Act and allowing, for the first time in 100 years, corporate spending in Montana elections. In an unusual statement accompanying the stay order, Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer urged their fellow Justices to reconsider Citizens United via the Montana case.

“Montana’s experience, and experience elsewhere since this Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations ‘do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption,’” Justice Ginsburg wrote, joined by Justice Breyer. The Montana case, the Justices continued, “will give the Court an opportunity to consider whether, in light of the huge sums currently deployed to buy candidates’ allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway.”

“All businesses must ask the question: Are our goals furthered by pay-to-play elections where precious capital is diverted to politics, or should we focus on our business and the benefits that we bring to the local and national economy? Montana’s ban on corporate spending should be applauded as a national model. The US Supreme Court should recognize it as such and should reverse the damage caused to our democracy by the Citizens Unitedruling,” says David Levine, CEO of the American Sustainable Business Council.

“Montana has the right and the duty to defend its laws against Beltway-based corporate front groups,” says Jeff Milchen, co-founder of the Bozeman, MT – based American Independent Business Alliance. “Butte, Libby and other Montana communities are still recovering from the ravages of large corporations whose political power allowed them to profit at the expense of Montanans’ health and our environment. Overturning our essential protections for election integrity would invite even more harm while allowing out-of-state corporations to gain political favors that undermine Montana entrepreneurs.”

Joining Ben Clements as co-counsel on the coalition’s friend-of-the-court brief are Hofstra University law professor Daniel Greenwood; Jeff Clements, the co-founder and president of Free Speech For People and author of the new book, Corporations Are Not People; and John Bonifaz, the co-founder and executive director of Free Speech For People.

Launched on the day of the Citizens United ruling, Free Speech For People is a national non-partisan campaign challenging the fabrication of corporate rights under the US Constitution and seeking to ensure that people, not corporations, govern in America.

About Jeff Clements

Jeff Clements is co-founder and chair of the board of Free Speech for People, a national non-partisan campaign to overturn Citizens United v. FEC, challenge excessive corporate power, and strengthen American democracy and republican self-government. He co-founded Free Speech For People in 2010, after representing several public interest organizations with a Supreme Court amicus brief in the Citizens United case. Jeff has served as Assistant Attorney General and Chief of the Public Protection Bureau in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. As Bureau Chief, he led more than 100 staff in the enforcement of environmental, healthcare, financial services, civil rights, antitrust and consumer protection laws. In private practice, Jeff has been a partner at Mintz Levin in Boston, and in his own firm. Jeff also has served in leadership capacities on numerous boards, including that of the Portland Water District, a public agency responsible for protecting and delivering safe drinking water and ensuring proper treatment of wastewater for 160,000 people; Friends of Casco Bay, an environmental organization he co-founded with others to protect and enhance stewardship of Maine’s Casco Bay; and The Waldorf School in Lexington, Massachusetts. In 2012, Jeff co-founded Whaleback Partners LLC, which provides cost-effective capital to farmers and businesses engaged in local, sustainable agriculture. Jeff graduated with distinction in History and Government from Colby College in 1984, and magna cum laude from the Cornell Law School in 1988. He lives in Concord, Massachusetts with his wife and three children. Jeff Clements Twitter: @ClementsJeff Email: jclements@freespeechforpeople.org
This entry was posted in The book. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments Closed

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s