IBT: Citizens United Has No Place in Big Sky Country: Mont. Supreme Court

“In upholding a century-old state ban on corporate spending in politics, Montana’s top court last week issued a rebuke of the U.S. Supreme Court‘s landmark Citizens United ruling that has been cited in challenges to local campaign finance laws,” international news source Investor’s Business Times reports this morning.

“…The law was challenged by a painting and drywall business, a Second Amendment advocacy group and an organization the Montana Supreme Court described as a “conduit of funds for… corporations who want to spend money anonymously to influence Montana elections.

“This organization, now known as American Tradition Partnership, is also challenging Montana’s law in federal court.

“The groups challenging the Big Sky State’s anti-corruption law say the Citizens United decision clearly states that government cannot restrict protected political speech. A trial court in Montana agreed and struck down the law.

“But the state Supreme Court overturned the decision, taking a more narrow view of the Citizens United decision, which concerned a federal law preventing corporations from “electioneering” by issuing political ads within 30 days of a primary and 60 days of a general election…

American Tradition Partnership’s executive director, Donald Ferguson, said in a statement that the Montana Supreme Court has “shown contempt for the overriding law of the land and has thumbed its nose at the United States Supreme Court.”

“Regardless of whether one believes corporations have the right to spend their money to do independent political ads, the Supreme Court has specifically addressed this question as a matter of constitutional law and the Montana Supreme Court has no authority or basis to tell the Supreme Court it is wrong,” he added.

“In a dissent, Justice Beth Baker agreed with Ferguson, predicting the majority’s ruling will be a “vain attempt to rescue Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act.”

“I believe it is our unflagging obligation, in keeping with the courts’ duty to safeguard the rule of law, to honor the decisions of our nation’s highest court,” she wrote. “Citizens United makes clear that a state’s outright ban on corporate political expenditures violates the First Amendment.”

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