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Montana organizations, Tester push to overturn Citizens United ruling

Nancy Leifer, board president of the Montana League of Women Voters, addresses a crowd in Helena. She said her organization does not support Citizens United, even after 10 years have passed since the controversial ruling. (Renata Birkenbuel/Missoula Current)

A decade after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its controversial decision on Citizens United, Sen. Jon Tester still believes the ruling still presents a danger for democracy.

Tester introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn what he called the “harmful” 2010 Citizens United decision. The amendment would counter Citizens United and declare that corporations are not people and give Congress greater authority to regulate the nation’s campaign finance system.

Nancy Leifer, board president of the Montana League of Women Voters, said her organization does not support the decision, even after 10 years have passed since the controversial ruling.

“The League is deeply committed to reforming our nation’s campaign finance system to ensure the public’s right to know, combat corruption and undue influence, enable candidates to compete more equitably for public office, and allow maximum citizen participation in the political process,” said Leifer.

Leifer added that the “explosive growth” of super Political Action Committees (PACS) since the decision undermines the integrity of elections in the United States.

“At the very least, there must be complete transparency in disclosing where contributions for political advertising have come from,” she said. “The League of Women Voters supports public financing of elections as the best way to get big money out of political campaigns and create a level playing field for all candidates.”

In a press release, Tester acknowledging the 10-year anniversary and said that since Citizens United went into effect a decade ago, the U.S. democracy is in danger. He has urged Congress to take action on making healthcare more affordable, caring for veterans and bolstering rural America.

“Special interests and corporations have spent billions influencing our elections, leaving voters in the dark,” said Tester. “The stakes are too high for us to let billionaires and corporations set the agenda. It’s past time for Congress to step up to the plate and do what Montanans did over 100 years ago in the days of the Copper Kings, and declare once and for all that democracy is not for sale.”

Tester introduced the Disclose Act, which would increase transparency in elections. It would force political organizations to disclose their biggest donors’ names, ban foreign nationals from participating in any election decisions and require more disclaimers on digital and political ads.

Tester leads the Spotlight Act, which would reverse a rule Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin imposed. The rule allows non-profits engaging in political activity to hide their donors.

Tester said he recently wrote a letter to the White House urging the administration to nominate a two bipartisan commissioners to the Federal Elections Commission. The commission currently cannot enforce campaign finance laws because it lacks enough members for a quorum.

End Citizens United, a grassroots-funded PAC founded in 2015, has recognized Tester as a consistent champion for overturning the decision – and for his work fighting the influence of special interests.

Contact Renata Birkenbuel at 406-565-0013 and renatab@missoulacurrent.com.