Montana’s Highest Court Rebukes Citizens United Ruling
Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock may have become the most, and simultaneously the least, popular person in America. In a stunning 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court of Montana rebuked the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous Citizens United ruling.
from the Great Falls Tribune:
The Montana Supreme Court restored the state’s century-old ban on direct spending by corporations on political candidates or committees in a ruling Friday that interest groups say bucks a high-profile U.S. Supreme Court decision granting political speech rights to corporations.
The decision grants a big win to Attorney General Steve Bullock, who personally represented the state in defending its ban that came under fire after the “Citizens United” decision last year from the U.S. Supreme court.
"The Citizens United decision dealt with federal laws and elections — like those contests for president and Congress," said Bullock, who is now running for governor. "But the vast majority of elections are held at the state or local level, and this is the first case I am aware of that examines state laws and elections."
American Tradition Partnership, the company who brought the case before the court, argued that the 1912 Corrupt Practices Act unconstitutionally blocked the free speech of corporations. The company has become notorious for testing state campaign finance authorities, and won a lower level court decision on the matter earlier in 2011.
However, the Supreme Court believed it had “compelling interest” in upholding the existing laws and disclosure regulations, agreeing with the arguments presented by Attorney General Bullock. Bullock argument centered around previous political corruption, and highlighted the infamous Butte “Copper Kings” who dominated local politics for years.
The Court also disagreed with ATP’s assertion that the Corrupt Practices Act unconstitutionally impeded the free speech of corporations. In the ruling, delivered by Chief Justice Mike McGrath, Montana’s highest court explained:
The evidence submitted by the state in the district court similarly demonstrates that corporations, through their political committees organized under Montana law, are and have been a substantial presence and active participants in Montana politics. The many lobbyists and political committees who participate in each session of the Montana Legislature bear witness. Under the undisputed facts here, the political committee is an easily implemented and effective alternative to direct corporate spending for engaging in political speech
As mentioned, the ruling was not a unanimous one. Justices Beth Baker and James Nelson, both noted liberals, dissented, with the belief that no state can impose an outright ban on political spending post-Citizens United.
In his dissent, Justice Nelson wrote:
Citizens United is the law of the land, and this court is duty-bound to follow it. When this case is appealed to the Supreme Court, as I expect it will be, a summary reversal on the merits would not surprise me in the least.
(image courtesy of the Montana Department of Justice)
| Follow Manic, Chill | | Subscribe to Manic, Chill(RSS) | | Subscribe via Email |