In the hysteria that continues to surround the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, one often-overlooked fact is that, at the time Citizens United was decided, 26 states already allowed for-profit corporations to spend unlimited amounts on political advertising (the 24 that prohibited spending are listed here). Many of these states also allowed corporations to make contributions directly to political candidates, and some, including Utah and Virginia, allowed unlimited corporate contributions directly to candidates.
That’s right—despite predictions that the corporate spending unleashed by Citizens United posed a dire threat to the Republic, such spending was already the norm in a majority of states, and there is not the slightest evidence that those states were any worse for it.
This fact is worth keeping in mind now that 22 states and the District of Columbia have submitted an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to affirm the Montana Supreme Court’s ruling in the American Tradition Partnership case, which upheld Montana’s ban on corporate expenditures in clear defiance of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United.
The 22 states that signed the brief are:
Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Of those states, however, only nine—Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island and West Virginia—prohibited corporate expenditures before Citizens United. The remaining 13 states and the District of Columbia not only permitted unlimited corporate expenditures, but also permitted corporations to make contributions directly to candidates (and recall that Utah actually permitted unlimited corporate contributions).
If one needed more evidence that much of the vitriol aimed at Citizens United is about scoring political points, and not about any principled opposition to that decision, this is it: 13 states signing onto a brief urging the reversal of a decision that had no effect on their laws.