Supreme Court declines arguments, leaves Montana’s disclosure laws intact

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear arguments in a challenge to Montana’s disclosure laws, drawing praise from those seeking more transparency in political campaigns and who funds the message behind them.

The decision leaves standing an earlier decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that affirmed the right of voters to know who is financing election advertising.

Montana’s 2015 DISCLOSE Act is here to stay, Gov. Steve Bullock said after the high court’s announcement.

“For over 100 years, we have led the way in clean government and transparent elections, despite attempts by out-of-state interests to time and time again overturn the will of the Montana people,” Bullock said. “This is another victory Montanans can claim over the big money that wants to make our decisions for us.”

Montana law requires political groups that spend money swaying voters to disclose basic information about their finances. That allows voters to fairly evaluate the electoral messages they receive.

The case has implications beyond Montana.

“Declining to hear this case protects the ability of state lawmakers across the country to use disclosure laws as a tool to promote transparency in elections,” said Paul Smith, vice president of the Campaign Legal Center. “Many states and municipalities have laws that parallel Montana’s. Disclosure laws like Montana’s are critical because voters deserve to know who is spending money to influence their votes.”

Bullock worked with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to pass the DISCLOSE Act in 2015. The act set a national standard for campaign finance by looking past an organization’s tax status to require the disclosure of funds spent influencing elections.

Bullock said it marks one of the most transparent campaign finance laws in the nation.