Montana Reaffirms Ban on Corporate Election Spending; Sets up Clash with Citizens United Ruling
Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Judge Mike McGrath
Montana’s century-old ban on corporate spending in elections has been restored by a 5-2 vote of the state Supreme Court, bucking the Citizens United ruling from two years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Since 1912, Montana had prohibited corporations from contributing to political candidates and committees under the Corrupt Practices Act. But following the Citizens United decision, which threw out federal limits on corporate and union campaign spending, a conservative group filed suit in Montana to contest the state’s ban on corporate donations.
A lower court sided with Western Tradition Partnership’s lawsuit and tossed the Corrupt Practices Act. The ruling prompted an appeal by state Attorney General Steve Bullock, who personally appeared before the state Supreme Court to successfully argue the merits of the state’s case and won restoration of the law.
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Mike McGrath presented a lively history of Montana’s fight against corporate interference with elections, in particular the Anaconda Copper Mining Company, which, prior to the Corrupt Practices Act, “controlled 90% of the press in the state and a majority of the legislature.” It continued to maintain “controlling ownership of all but one of Montana’s major newspapers until 1959.”
Lawyers for Western Tradition Partnership and its co-plaintiffs, Champion Painting and the Montana Shooting Sports Association, are considering whether to appeal the decision to the nation’s highest court.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
Montana High Court Upholds Ban on Election Spending by Corporations (by Matt Gouras, Associated Press)
Supreme Court Upholds State Ban on Direct Corporate Campaign Spending (by Charles Johnson, Missoulian)
Western Tradition Partnership v. State of Montana (Montana Supreme Court) (pdf)
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