McCain and Whitehouse urge High Court to note impact of Citizens United decision

McCain and Whitehouse advised the Supreme Court against reviewing the American Tradition Parternship v. Bullock case, which was ruled on by the Montana Supreme Court. The Montana court held that the state could still restrict corporations from paying for election ads even after the Citizens United decision.

But the senators added that if the Supreme Court chooses to re-examine the case, the court should re-think the “Citizens United finding that vast independent expenditures do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” The brief details how coordination rules are not applying a “meaningful check on the system” and that disclosure rules are not enough.

McCain, a longtime advocate of campaign finance reform, has been a frequent critic of the Citizens United decision. The Hill reported earlier this week that McCain was talking to Democrats about possible ways to reform the campaign finance system.

Whitehouse has taken a prominent position against the Citizens United decision, joining a Democratic Senate task force to reform the system in March. That task force created a second version of the Disclose Act, which was introduced in March as a less strict version of the failed 2010 Disclose Act legislation.

The new version of the Disclose Act would require any group that spends $10,000 or more on election ads, or any other political activity, to file a disclosure report with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) within 24 hours. Groups would also have to file a new report for each additional $10,000 spent, disclose donors who gave $10,000 or more and provide a statement from the group’s head ratifying that there was no coordination with any campaign, which is illegal. 

The bill also contains a “stand by your ad” provision, which would require the heads of the groups to include an “I approve this message” disclaimer in campaign ads. 

No Republicans have supported the Disclose Act legislation yet, but support from McCain could significantly help the new bare-bones version of the 2010 legislation.

"That would change everything,” a Democratic leadership aide told The Hill earlier this week. “That would breathe new life into it.”

— Alexander Bolton contributed