Citizens United: Kentucky’s response


The Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United v. FEC case has rendered 24 states’ election laws unconstitutional. The 5-4 ruling in favor of Citizens United reversed a provision of the McCain-Feingold act that prohibited any electioneering communication—defined as advertising via broadcast, cable or satellite that is paid for by corporations or labor unions. Many states have acted fast to counter corporations’ ability to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections by passing laws that force disclosure of all independent expenditures in near real time. The Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group has decided to report what each of these states is doing to respond to the highly-contested ruling. Today we’re onto our ninth state, Kentucky:
State: Kentucky
Resolution: SR 127
Passed: Yes
Kentucky has issued an advisory opinion that allows corporations to make independent expenditures in order to influence elections, but they’re not happy about it. In a House Resolution, Kentucky has expressed its disappointment over the Supreme Court’s decision Citizens United v. FEC case.
The resolution quotes President Obama by stating, “the Court’s opinion gives ‘a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics’ and represents a victory for the ‘powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.'”
The opinion serves as a way for the state to force disclosure requirements on any corporation that wants to spend its own money independent of a candidate to influence an election. Now, organizations have to register with the state and file a disclosure containing details about the expenditure. Kentucky hasn’t yet repealed the law that was made unconstitutional by the Citizens United decision, but has instead addressed it with the opinion and the resolution. The state did this ahead of the issue being taken up by its legislature.
According to the opinion, the disclosure statement ideally should contain the amount spent to influence the election and which candidate the ad intended to support or oppose. If the corporation receives donations from outside sources, then it has to register as a committee as well.
Emily Dennis, General Counsel for the Kentucky Secretary of State, says forcing corporations to register as committees is supposed to prevent individuals from using them as conduit and hiding behind those corporations without being revealed.
The disclosure forms have to be filed when the money is spent, with the exception of the committees. They file every 30 days and once again 15 days before an election. This leaves the details of ads paid for within two weeks of an election in the dark until a month after the election is done. Also, Kentucky doesn’t have an electronic system set up yet that would make the forms available online to the public. Currently, anyone seeking the forms has to do so in person.