Montana News

Dec 30, 2011 6:15 PM by Marnee Banks (Helena)

MT Supreme Court rules in campaign spending suit

The Montana Supreme Court is upholding a 1912 Montana law stating that corporations cannot spend money to influence elections.

The Supreme Court issued its decision on Friday on the Western Tradition Partnership lawsuit, overturning a District Court ruling made by Judge Jeffrey Sherlock.

The Montana Supreme Court concluded, "The state had and continues to have compelling interest in curbing the corrupting influence that could arise from large expenditures of corporate money in Montana elections."

Justices Beth Baker and James Nelson dissented, saying a U.S. Supreme Court decision has already decided that states can not ban corporations from spending money to influence elections.

Western Tradition Partnership issued a statement Friday saying employers and corporations have a right to free speech. It reports it's looking at its legal options.

Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock (D) issued the following statement:

"For over 100 years, Montana has had an electoral system that preserves the integrity of the political process, encourages full participation, and safeguards against corruption. The Supreme Court's decision upholds that system and is truly a victory for all Montanans.

"We're very pleased with today's decision which is based on solid constitutional analysis, common sense and a clear understanding of both Montana's history and our current system of electing our state's leaders.

"The Citizen's United decision dealt with federal laws and elections - like those contests for President and Congress. 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.

"It was an honor to argue this case and to defend Montana's century-old campaign laws before the state's highest court."

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