Burt Neuborne weighs in on Supreme Court decision to strike down Montana law

On June 25, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 vote to strike down Montana's law banning corporate campaign spending.

In May, Burt Neuborne, Inez Milholland Professor of Civil Liberties, was the counsel of record for an amicus curiae brief submitted in the case by former officials of the American Civil Liberties Union. The brief, which was prepared with assistance of members of the 2012 Seminar on the United States Supreme Court at NYU Law, urged the court to issue a writ of certiorari “to permit plenary consideration of whether multi-shareholder business corporations enjoy First Amendment rights to expend unlimited funds in connection with federal, state, and local elections.”

Burt Neuborne“The Supreme Court 5-4 decision overturning Montana’s effort to shield its state and local democratic processes from being overwhelmed by out-of-state corporate political spending is another step by the judicial wing of the Republican Party to turn American democracy into the plaything of the super-rich. Last week, the same five Justices reached out to impede unions from raising money for political campaigns. Today, despite the pleas of four Justices to reconsider the disastrous decision in Citizens United, the five Republican Justices rededicated themselves to making it as easy as possible for corporate America to control the nation’s political agenda,” Neuborne said in response to the court's June 25 decision.

“Those of us who hope to restore American democracy to its egalitarian roots now have three options: (1) Congressional action to limit the damage by requiring full disclosure of campaign spending; (2) a constitutional amendment overturning the appalling ruling in Buckley v. Valeo that equates political spending with political speech, no matter how high the level of spending; (3) and the election of a President who will appoint the one additional Justice needed to reverse the current 5-4 corporate stone wall," Neuborne continued. "Given the stranglehold that big money has on American politics, Congress is unlikely to act, and a constitutional amendment is virtually impossible. That leaves the upcoming Presidential election as a crucial referendum on the future of American democracy.”

NYU Law's Brennan Center for Justice also submitted an amicus curiae brief in May, in support of the respondents. "Increasing numbers of Americans believe our government is bought and paid for by special interests and that their votes don’t matter," said Adam Skaggs in a statement issued by the Brennan Center on June 25. "The Court missed a critical opportunity to rein in some of the worst excesses of Citizens United, and other rulings, that created this Super PAC mess."

Posted June 25, 2012

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