James Bopp, a conservative attorney who has led the opposition to campaign finance laws, today endorsed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Romney has been a major beneficiary of laws Bopp has advocated for.
Bopp’s most well-known victory was in the 2010 Supreme Court case Citizens United, which struck down long-standing campaign finance laws by allowing corporations, non-profits, and unions to contribute unlimited amounts of money to political causes and to organizations advocating for candidates. Bopp was the original lawyer representing the conservative non-profit Citizens United, though he did not argue the case at the Supreme Court.
The Citizens United ruling opened the doors to the creation of super PACs, political action committees that can accept unlimited donations from individuals and corporations and spend unlimited amounts supporting or opposing candidates. Restore our Future, a super PAC supporting Romney, has raised more than $30 million and has used the money to barrage Romney’s Republican rival Newt Gingrich with negative ads.
Bopp told the New York Times after the Citizens United ruling that he had a “10-year-plan” to take down campaign finance restrictions. “If we do it right, I think we can pretty well dismantle the entire regulatory regime that is called campaign finance law,” Bopp told the Times.
Even before that, Bopp had been active for years using legal challenges to oppose campaign finance restrictions – challenging parts of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, and opposing various donor disclosure laws and caps on political contribution. Asked whether Romney supports Bopp’s efforts, Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement, “Governor Romney is a strong supporter of the First Amendment and believes that Citizens United was rightly decided. He opposes the irrational campaign finance rules that are driving so much funding away from candidates and toward unaccountable third parties like super PACs. He believes that Americans should be permitted to donate as they wish to the candidates of their choice.”
Asked about Citizens United by a New Hampshire voter in August, Romney, who has been a major beneficiary of corporate contributions, defended the decision as a way of equalizing the influence of corporations with the influence of unions and of newspapers, which can provide endorsements. (The ruling applied to corporations and unions, which are both barred from contributing directly to candidates.)
But Romney also said he dislikes the influence of money in politics and favors disclosure. “What I’d like to do is see people be able to make contributions to campaigns and know who makes contributions,” Romney said this summer. “My own view is I don’t like all the influence of money in politics, but I don’t have a solution that’s a lot better than saying let people contribute what they will, then report it, let people know who gave what to who.”
A lengthy letter by Bopp endorsing Romney, released by the Romney campaign this morning, did not mention Bopp’s involvement in campaign finance. Rather, Bopp focused on highlighting Romney’s social conservatism and pro-life credentials – something Romney’s Republican opponents have questioned. Bopp talked about Romney’s work in Massachusetts opposing embryonic stem cell research, opposing legislation to give women the morning-after pill without a prescription, and opposing gay marriage.
In addition to his campaign finance work, Bopp has represented numerous conservative Christian, pro-life, and anti-gay marriage organizations, including the National Organization for Marriage and the National Right to Life Committee.
Shira Schoenberg can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @shiraschoenberg.