Citizens United Redux

Montana campaign finance


In December the Montana Supreme Court upheld the state's 99-year-old ban on corporate spending in political campaigns. The decision surprised most legal observers, who expected the court to follow the logic of Citizens United v. FEC, the 2010 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a similar ban at the federal level violated the First Amendment.

"Unlike Citizens United," the Montana Supreme Court said, "this case concerns Montana law, Montana elections and it arises from Montana history." Dissenting Justice James C. Nelson chastised his colleagues for writing their personal preferences into law. "I believe the Montana Attorney General has identified some very compelling reasons for limiting corporate expenditures in Montana's political process," he wrote. "The problem, however, is that regardless of how persuasive I may think the Attorney General's justifications are, the Supreme Court has already rebuffed each and every one of them."

In February the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay in the case, Western Tradition Partnership v. Attorney General of Montana, preventing the ruling from going into effect until the Court decides whether to summarily overturn the decision or hear an appeal.