Dem AGs tell Congress to overturn Citizens United ruling

By John O'Brien | Apr 5, 2012


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - Eleven state attorneys general want Congress to overturn a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed corporations to spend freely while supporting or opposing political campaigns.

The group wrote House and Senate leaders on Wednesday, urging them to lead a reversal of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The AGs are seeking a Constitutional amendment and say the decision has resulted in an increase in undisclosed corporate and special interest money making its way in the electoral process.

"This unrestricted flow of money leads our citizens to believe that our current political system favors the wealthy few instead of the public good," Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said.

In January 2010, U.S. Supreme Court held that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited because of the First Amendment.

The ruling in favor of Citizens United stemmed from a dispute over whether the non-profit corporation could air a film critical of current U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The decision infuriated President Barack Obama, who criticized the majority in a State of the Union Address.

Obama said the ruling would "open the floodgates for special interests to spend without limit" in elections.

The ruling overturned a ban on spending in support of or in opposition to a candidate -- i.e. advertising -- but kept intact a law that forbids companies from donating funds directly from their treasuries to candidates.

The high court also recently stayed a decision by the Montana Supreme Court upholding a state election law. Montana's court had ruled that a law prohibiting corporate contributions in state political campaigns was not in conflict with Citizens United.

Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock was one of the 11 AGs who signed the bill. Those who joined him, in addition to Coakley, were Delaware's Beau Biden, Hawaii's David Louie, Kentucky's Jack Conway, Mississippi's Jim Hood, New Mexico's Gary King, New York's Eric Schneiderman, Rhode Island's Peter Kilmartin, Vermont's William Sorrell and West Virginia's Darrell McGraw.

All are Democrats. Their letter says "an unprecedented number of outside groups (are) attacking candidates in the Republican presidential primary race."

"Although barred from coordinating with specific candidates, many Super PACs support a specific candidate and are run by former staffers of that candidate," the letter continued.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at

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