Montana Politics

Feb 17, 2012 7:22 PM by Marnee Banks (Helena)

U.S. Supreme Court blocks MT campaign finance law

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday issued an order to stay the Montana Supreme Court's decision upholding the 1912 Corrupt Practices Act, which bans corporations from spending money to influence elections.

This means that the nation's high court will delay enforcement of the ruling until the justices decide what to do; the court could hear the case or simply overturn it.

American Tradition Partnership asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the ruling.

The one-page order from the U.S Supreme Court reads:

Montana's experience, and experience elsewhere since this Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm'n, 558 U. S. ___ (2010), make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations "do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption." Id., at ___ (slip op., at 42). A petition for certiorari will give the Court an opportunity to consider whether, in light of the huge sums currently deployed to buy candidates' allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway. Because lower courts are bound to follow this Court's decisions until they are withdrawn or modified, however, Rodriguez de Quijas v. Shearson/American Express, Inc., 490 U. S. 477, 484 (1989), I vote to grant the stay.

Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock has been defending Montana's ban on corporate campaign spending and issued the following statement in response to the order:

"While I'm disappointed that for the first time in 100 years Montanans won't be able to rely on our corporate spending ban to safeguard the integrity of our elections, I am encouraged that the Supreme Court will give this careful consideration and I look forward to continuing to fight for Montana in defending our century-old law. For more than a century, anyone has been able to participate in Montana elections - even out-of-state corporate executives. All we required is that they used their own money, not that of their stockholders, and they disclosed who they are."

American Tradition Partnership Montana volunteer coordinator Doug Lair and executive director Donald Ferguson issued the following statement:

"Justice Anthony Kennedy's decision Friday to grant Montanans a stay of Montana's Supreme Court's erroneous ruling is a win for everyone's First Amendment rights. The United States Constitution protects Americans' God-given right to associate and speak freely, even if we choose to do that under the corporate structure. Stripping people of their right to engage in political speech because you do not like the identity of the speaker is an assault on this republic's founding principles. The law and the Constitution are on our side and we expect to win yet again when this matter is considered by U.S. Supreme Court."

We will update you on this developing story as we learn more.


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