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Governor Bullock Opens New Front in Battle Against Dark Money by Proposing Ban on Foreign Spending

Called “the biggest threat to Citizens United,” Governor Bullock continues efforts to make Montana elections the most transparent in the nation

Wednesday, March 13, 2019/Categories: Governor's Office/Tags:

Governor Steve Bullock is continuing a decade-long fight against dark money in Montana by proposing a ban on foreign spending in Montana elections. The proposed law closes a loophole created by the Citizens United case that allows foreign governments and foreign companies to spend in United States elections through domestic subsidiaries.

“Montana has a proud history of standing up and fighting back – of claiming our Montana elections for Montanans alone. In those efforts, we have a history of leading the nation, whether its fighting Citizens United in the Supreme Court or coming together in 2015 to pass the bipartisan DISCLOSE Act,” said Governor Bullock. “Today, we begin a new chapter of that history by bringing Montana elections even closer to our citizens.”

Senate Bill 326, sponsored by Senator Nate McConnell, proposes to ban spending and contributions in Montana elections by foreign governments, foreign corporations, and foreign nationals. It closes a Citizens United loophole by designating certain groups as “foreign influenced” if they are using domestic shell corporations to evade the law. Under Citizens United, a foreign national can set up an American corporation to spend influencing elections.

“The risk of foreign governments and foreign corporations using this loophole to influence our elections isn’t speculative. It’s real, and it’s happening now,” Governor Bullock continued. “We must continue fighting for a system where Montana elections are decided by Montanans, not foreign governments or foreign corporations. The foreign money ban does just that.”

“We have always and will always strive to make sure our elections are clean and fair, and this bill takes the obvious step to keep foreign money out,” said Senator Nate McConnell. “This bill is really simple: It makes sure that Montanans’ voices are the most important and that we decide Montana’s elections.”

Since taking office, Governor Bullock has fought to keep dark money out of politics and ensure Montana elections are among the most transparent in the nation:

  • Bullock has been called “the biggest threat to Citizens United,”;
  • As Attorney General, Bullock personally led the effort to preserve Montana’s 100-year-old Corrupt Practices Act, taking the case for the state’s citizen democracy all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court;
  • In 2015, Governor Bullock worked with Republicans and Democrats to pass the DISCLOSE Act to require the disclosure of donors to independent group spending money on state-level elections. In 2016, the dark money groups that dominated the 2012 election in Montana largely stayed out;
  • In 2018, Governor Bullock issued a first-in-the-nation dark money executive order requiring government contractors to disclose secret spending; and
  • In 2018, Governor Bullock sued the IRS over its decision to shield dark money donors from disclosure.

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court left in place Montana’s contribution limits, rejecting a challenge that would increase the amount of money in politics. The case dates back to Bullock’s time as Attorney General, when he defended the state’s limits.

Most recently, the United States Supreme Court also left in place Montana’s DISCLOSE Act, rejecting a challenge brought by the same law firm that brought the original Citizens United case.

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