Colorado, Montana pass ballot measures seeking campaign finance reform

[JURIST] Voters passed ballot measures on Tuesday seeking to limit the amount of money that can be directed to political campaigns in Colorado [Amendment 65; results] and Montana [Initiative 166, PDF, results]. The measure [text, PDF] in Colorado will amend that state's constitution to declare that the people of the state find that "large campaign contributions to political candidates create[s] the potential for corruption," and seek laws to limit campaign spending, disclosure of contributions, and provide strong enforcement of campaign finance requirements. The Montana measure declares that state policy will be that corporations are not the same as human beings, and thus, are not permitted the same constitutional rights. The intended effect of the initiative is to "[prohibit] corporate campaign contributions and expenditures." The initiative further directs the state's Congressional delegation to introduce an amendment to the US Constitution that would similarly declare that corporations are not human beings. Earlier this year, Montana's century-old campaign finance law [MCA § 13-37-216] the 1912 Corrupt Practices Act [PPL backgrounder] was struck down when the US Supreme Court [official website] overruled [JURIST report] a Montana Supreme Court [official website] ruling [JURIST report] that upheld the Corrupt Practices Act.

These actions come in reaction to the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [opinion, PDF; JURIST report], which struck down a regulation that prohibited corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds for "electioneering communications" or for speech expressly advocating the election or defeat of a political candidate. Some commentators have noted that states are resisting this constitutional interpretation by enacting statewide measures like these initiatives, and argued [JURIST op-eds] for the need for increased regulation and transperency regarding campaign finances. However, the Supreme Court's decision in the Montana case likely extends the the ruling in Citizens United to the states, so the effect of the new measures is unclear.

 

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