Supreme Court

Supreme Court Summarily Reverses Montana's Blatant Violation of Citizens United


In December 2011 the Montana Supreme Court voted to upheld the state's 99-year-old ban on corporate spending in political campaigns. Writing in dissent, Montana Justice James C. Nelson chastised his colleagues for blatantly ignoring the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which struck down a nearly identical federal law banning political spending by corporations and unions. As Nelson wrote:

Montana is in the same First Amendment swimming pool as every other state, and the Supreme Court has dictated that its waters are expansive and deep when it comes to corporate political speech. Citizens United is the law of the land, and this Court is duty-bound to follow it. When this case is appealed to the Supreme Court, as I expect it will be, a summary reversal on the merits would not surprise me in the least.

Nelson hit the nail on the head. Earlier today, the U.S. Supreme Court sent the Montana decision to its doom with a summary reversal. As the Supreme Court declared:

The question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law. There can be no serious doubt that it does.  See U. S. Const., Art. VI, cl. 2.  Montana's arguments in support of the judgment below either were already rejected in Citizens United, or fail to meaningfully distinguish that case….The judgment of the Supreme Court of Montana is reversed.

For more on the case, see my recent column "Montana's Misguided Attempt to Nullify Citizens United."

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  1. Get ready for another week of “CORPORAASHUNS are PEOPLE, man!” butthurt from Team Blue.

  2. I know this ruling is no more than SCOTUS reminding everyone who’s in charge, but that doesn’t make the salty ham tears any less delicious.

    1. What Prof. Akston said.

    2. “I see Montana doesn’t understand whose dick is bigger. Everyone, let’s get out the rulers…”

      1. Pelosi would win. Easily.

        1. *BARF*

          Since Barfman isn’t around…

    3. would akston like sum SB1070 whine w his cheese?

      1. Dude, seriously, you are an asshole. You contribute nothing to these comments.

        1. following akston’s lead old boy

  3. Corporations are people… They are made out of people!!!

    1. +fucking AWESOME


        1. “Mountain Men” was on a couple weeks ago – CH + Brian Keith. Had never seen it before. It was wonderfully understated and just nudging into campy.

          And from that, I leave you with: “RUNNING MOOOOOOON!!!!”


  4. So four liberals dissented, instead hoping to revisit the details of Citizen’s United.

    I guess stare decisis only applies to the other team.

    1. Quite funny considering today’s AZ ruling that says federal law pre-empts state law…

      1. Except in marijuana, or something.

    2. An argument could be made that a 5-4 decision two years ago does not cause stare decisis to kick in.

      1. An arugment could be made that four losers from two years ago are still bitching and whining about losing.

      2. To be sure, the more precedents you can pile up, the stronger the stare decisis argument is.

        But its still there, even if its only one decision.

        I’ll have to read the dissent. For the lulz.

        1. I read it: “We still don’t agree! We want a recount!”

          1. Thanks. God’s work, toughest neighborhoods, etc.

            1. I believe they’re busing in SCOTUS justices for the Obamacare case.

    3. They’re signaling that they’re eager to overturn it as soon as they get one more vote. So please keep your test cases at the ready, libs.

      1. ^^This^^

        I only pray that Ginsberg, Breyer and Kagan carpool and get flattened by a union Teamsters trucker with an Obama2012 sticker on his rig…and I hope it happens two days after Obama loses this fall. I’m giving Sotomayor a reprieve, but only temporarily, as I think she’ll come down on the right side of the Obamacare verdict.

      2. They were more than signalling; Breyer actually wrote basically that in his dissent:

        “Were the matter up to me, I would vote to grant the petition for certiorari in order to reconsider Citizens United or, at least, its application in this case. But given the Court’s per curiam disposition, I do not see a significant possibility of reconsideration. Consequently, I vote instead to deny the petition.”

        Translation: “I got four votes here, and if we hear this case now then it would solidify Cit U. So hang in there, bitches, and vote Obama this fall.”

  5. I don’t know why liberals would want Citizens United overturned anyway. Hell, they can blame every defeat at the polls on it.

    “Man, the people love us! But TEH EVUL CORPARAYSHUNS!!!!!”

    1. I don’t know why they’re bitching, either. Are Greenpeace and NOW not incorporated?

    2. also applies to unions, but you never hear liberals bring up that part.

      1. And you won’t because unions have always worked around the laws in place before CU anyway. They strongarmed their members into direct contributions to the candidates of their choosing and the DoL turned a blind eye for years. If a private company ever did that, there would be hell to pay.

        1. Hahahahahaha. It would be worth it for some corporation to declare that they’re going to keep 1% of everybody’s paycheck and donate it to TEAM RED, but only if there was actual video of TEAM BLUE heads exploding.

    3. I don’t know why liberals would want Citizens United overturned anyway. Hell, they can blame every defeat at the polls on it.

      What about every victory?

      1. That just means it was an even greater victory since they even managed to overcome the corporations too.

        1. Right. A loss means the opponent just bought the election. A victory means that even in the face of limitless corporate evil, the good people managed to win. They now win every time.

  6. You know, if you want to chip away at incorporation doctrine, a First Amendment case probably isn’t the best place to start.

    1. Yeah, the part about “Congress shall make no law…” gets complicated somehow.

  7. To the Montana Supreme Court, re Citizens United:

    Amendment 1: Congress shall make NO LAW…abridging the freedom of speech. (This means you, see Amendment 14).

    English, motherfuckers, do you speak it?

    Warmest regards, SCOTUS.

    1. Don’t have to be an absolutist here, either. When the Court has talked about a hierarchy of speech, right at the top has been political speech.

      1. Yes, but for some bizarre reason groups of people have no rights if they are corporationy as determined by some arbitrary Democratic standard. And of course, unions need not worry since Team Blue will look the other way when the snake around these laws.

    2. What about laws against perjury and death threats.

      1. Really Tulpa? You need me to remind you of the difference between purely political speech, which is what Citizens United is about protecting, and speech that harms another person? That’s Tony-levels of stupidity.

        1. The amendment doesn’t distinguish between those categories if you take it literally.

          1. Right, but I’m not just taking it literally. It unquestionably protects political speech, which is why it is coupled with freedom of the press. The language would incline the court to give the broadest possible interpretation of what is free speech.

            There is already common law standards for determining what is libelous and we all know that threats of violence are criminal, so neither of those are good arguments.

      2. What about laws against perjury and death threats.

        What about them?

      3. Sigh…those arent free speech, so arent covered by the 1st.

      4. What about laws against perjury and death threats.

        Perjury isn’t a restriction on speech, its a punishment for violating an oath. Its enforcement of a contract, if you will.

        1. RC is correct. In most 1A situations, prior restraint is the issue, which is exactly what Montana was engaging in.

          Fraud, etc, are punishing the consequences of harmful speech.

        2. Perjury isn’t a restriction on speech, its a punishment for violating an oath. Its enforcement of a contract, if you will.

          Two problems with this:

          1. The witness is not getting any consideration in return for testifying, so how can it be a contract?

          2. Lies told after taking an identical oath in the 7-Eleven are not legally punishable. A contract is valid regardless of where it is entered into, so long as there is no duress etc.

          1. The contract was meant as a loose analogy, T. The point was, you aren’t be punished for speaking, or saying the “wrong” thing, or even for speaking falsely.

            You are being punished for violating an oath.

            1. That doesn’t hold water since no other oath is legally punishable for violating.

              Plus the violation of the oath always takes the form of speech or the choice not to speak.

            2. And of course, if you violate the oath in a way that does not affect the outcome of the trial, perjury doesn’t apply. So it’s not violation of the oath we’re talking about.

          2. Or, if you really like the contract angle, the consideration for your oath is being allowed to give evidence.

  8. I don’t get what makes you libertarians so sure our corporate overlords will be friendly to your freedom when it conflicts with their profits.

    1. We’re not, hence the vast literature available here at about corporate welfare, protectionism, and rent-seeking.

      1. And undying support for calling unlimited political donations free speech.

        1. Why do you think our POLITICAL overlords will be friendly to freedom, Tony?

          Yes, even the ones from your Team.

    2. There is a possibility that they won’t be freedom friendly when it conflicts with their profits. We’ll just have to deal with that hypothetical if it happens. In the meantime, people still have the freedom of association.

    3. No corporation has ever searched my house, jailed me or my family, forced me to spend a dollar on their services or taken my property. Government, on the other hand…

      1. Of course the irony of Tony’s comment is apparent on its face. If the government can restrict the speech of Unions, the ACLU and George Soros, what’s to say the government won’t ban the speech of some organization that Tony holds dear?

      2. RIAA and BP have come close.

        But, of course, they would be toothless without govt assistance.

        1. But, of course, they would be toothless without govt assistance.

          *nods without saying a thing*

      3. No corporation has ever searched my house, jailed me or my family, forced me to spend a dollar on their services or taken my property.

        ^ WIN ^

      4. I don’t know about that Paul. According to the “victim” in the current anti-smoking commercials in my area the tobacco companies literally forced her to smoke and then would not let her quit, no matter how hard she tried. It wasn’t until her little niece said something that she finally broke the hold Big Tobacco had over her.

    4. Absent crony capitalism, my freedom is strongly correlated with a corporation’s profits whereas it’s inversely correlated with the government’s profits.

    5. Paranoia isn’t as cute as you seem to think it is.

    6. So people who are not friendly to our freedoms should not be allowed freedom of speech?

      You obviously hate our freedoms…yet everyone here thinks you should be able to say what you want Tony.

      Anyway in case you haven’t noticed libertarians believe in freedom on principle…not freedom for poeple we like and less freedom for people we do not like.

      I understand why you do not agree with this….but i think in the clear language I used above it should not be hard for you to “get it”.

      1. “Anyway in case you haven’t noticed libertarians believe in freedom on principle…not freedom for poeple we like and less freedom for people we do not like.”

        All of the silly trolls here make the same mistake. They think that most of us here are like they are and have loyalty/devotion to individuals. Thus the endless tossing around of bush/palin/limbaugh/paul etc.. Somehow that is supposed to provoke us. They simply dont understand that most of us here are loyal to principles and support a given politician only to the extent that they are supportive of those same principles. They dont seem to be able to fathom that.

        So, plain language or not Josh, he aint gonna get it.

        1. They don’t “think” or “understand” anything.

          The feel and emote.

          The irony is that they feel good when they say that they are more evolved than us thinking people, yet they are slaves to the most primitive part of their brain, the amygdala.

          1. u know who else uses “they” alot?

            1. Not Obama. He restricts himself to first person pronouns.

              1. Not Obama

                No, he prefers

                Some Say and

                There are those who say

            2. Gaius Marcius Ru… oh forget it.

    7. The shit you say….corporate overlords…wealth apologists….
      You should take that shit on the road dude, you would have audiences rolling. Really.

      1. The way to stop corporations from controlling government is to give more power to government so it can control the corporations that are controlling it.

        And if that doesn’t work, and the corporations manage to control the more powerful government that is supposed to control them, then more power needs to be given to government so it can control the corporations that control it.

        What could possibly go wrong?

  9. I think the dissent deserves closer inspection. Because it’s pretty bold. Paraphrasing…even if CU was valid, Montana should still be able to say FU to SCOTUS.

    Wha…??? That’s huge. I can’t believe the four losers really signed onto that statement.

  10. Obviously the free market answer is to get rid of all government sanctioned limited liability corporations.

    As well of course as getting rid of all government sanctioned limited liability for government.

    That way we all stand on the same legal level when speaking. No special government granted privileges that some can speak but then hide behind either government or government created corporations

    1. “Obviously”.

      1. Why when I speak does my identity and my liability is exposed to all, yet when someone who owns all or part of a corporation or who is part of the government can speak with their identify masked and their liability limited?

        1. Yes, that’s my biggest complaint about corporate personhood. But for the time being I’ll put up with it since it’s important to establish speech rights for groups that can challenge the government,.

        2. Unless you’re committing libel or divulging trade secrets, your speech has zero to do with liability. So that’s a red herring.

          Also anonymous speech is available to individuals, “DJF”.

          1. Publius would have never written anonymously.

            He put his name out there.

            1. Alongside Constance Dogood.

        3. “Why when I speak does my identity and my liability is exposed to all,” said the anonymous online commenter.

          1. I am not anonymous , DJF is my initials and Reason has my e-mail address.

            1. You don’t have to use a name that has anything to do with your name in real life, and you can get an email address anonymously.

        4. Well, if they are publicly held, the majority shareholders and C-level officers aren’t masked, first of all. Second, the officers who actually make the decisions CAN be held personally liable, if not directly to the injured party, then to the shareholders. It is SHAREHOLDER liability that is limited. Specifically, I shouldn’t be bankrupted because I happened to hold a share of BP when their employees made a dangerous mistake and then covered it up.

          1. I think a lot of people who fear the corporate bogeyman think that corporate executives operate without liability, not getting the point of limited liability at all.

            1. These are usually the same people who think the non-profit designation means something other than not distributing profits and special tax status, which leads to brilliant things like Why Would a Nonprofit Have Shares?

              1. Not-for-profit ? not loaded with money.

          2. You are part owner of the corporation. So you don’t think that ownership brings responsibility?

    2. “As well of course as getting rid of all government sanctioned limited liability for government.”

      It was government that created an unlimited liabilty concept to begin with – it’s not some law of nature.

      If everyone should be on equal footing, then go the other direction and make all liabilty limited.

      Why should partner # 10 in a partership have to pay for the acts of partner #1 simply because he has enough money to cover the damages that partner #1 caused and partner # 1 does not?

      Or simply have government quit intefering in freedom of contract and then all businesses of any type could make limited liabilty part of every contractual arrangement for everyone doing business with them.

    3. Obviously the free market answer is to get rid of all government sanctioned limited liability corporations.

      While you’re at it, why not get rid of government-imposed limitations on vicarious liability?

      The limited liability folks are bound and determined to remain ignorant of principal-agent law, which provides, all on its own, that someone who has no ability to control what somebody else does, isn’t liable for their actions.

      In a corporate setting, this means that shareholders would not be jointly and severally liable for what the corporation does, regardless of state codification of limited liability.

      Limited liability for investors didn’t just spring from the brow of robber barons in the 19th century, you know. Its the application of principles of personal responsibility to large organizations financed by people with no ability to direct the operations of the corporation.

      1. On the flip side, this is the reasoning behind not letting shareholders run companies directly. Often that goes too far, arguably, as shareholder suits rarely work, but the rationale behind that is that shareholders can’t exercise much direct control while also claiming limited liability.

      2. If I recall correctly, the concept of having a group of persons acting in concert forming an artifical person is rather ancient. The Roman societas was for pooling charitable resources, the collegium for providing services such as fire fighting, and the corporatio allowed Senators to engage in trade via shares (Senators were barred from directly trading merchandise, but could invest in trading companies). I believe by the time of Ulpian these organizations had become artifical persons, capable of being sued in court. Many people don’t realize how ancient the corporatio(n) is.

  11. This ain’t no Roe v. Wade. It’s hanging by a 5-4 thread.

    I don’t give it more than five years unless Romney can pull off his Chauncey Gardiner strategy and win this election by saying absolutely nothing of substance about anything.

    1. It worked for Obama, didn’t it?

    2. win this election by saying absolutely nothing of substance about anything.

      It is how Obama won 4 years ago.

      1. Not true, four years ago Obama said he would bail out billion dollar banks and would fight a war in Afghanistan. It just that most of his supporters did not listen.

    3. RvW was hanging by a 5-4 thread in 1992 after PP vs Casey.

  12. Repeal CU. Corporations should not be allowed to express political any views 60 days before an election.

    Except for massive multinational media corporations, of course.

    They clearly don’t have a political agenda like other massive multinational corporations, and should be allowed to express the kinds of sober, even-handed and well-considered moderate political views the editorial board of the NY Times is known for.

    1. Do you have to be losing money like NYT to be able to speak? If not, Fox News might be allowed to express an opinion. We can’t have that!

    2. Don’t forget artificial persons like Unions and Non Profits.

  13. More freedom is always good (in this case the freedom to organize into corporations and spend money on political advertising), the supreme court is begging the question:

    The question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law. There can be no serious doubt that it does. See U. S. Const., Art. VI, cl. 2.

    The constitutional clause they cited says nothing about Supreme Court rulings being the law of the land. It only talks about actual laws (and treaties).

    This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

    1. Judicial review was a power assumed by the Supreme Court in Marbury vs. Madison, not granted by the Constitution.

      Even Thomas Jefferson objected:

      You seem to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so. They have, with others, the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps…. Their power [is] the more dangerous as they are in office for life, and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control. The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots. It has more wisely made all the departments co-equal and co-sovereign within themselves.

      1. Yet another thing Jefferson was wildly wrong about.

        No doubt the court has had abuses of power, but NOTHING compared to the executive and legislative branches. Including Jefferson himself.

        1. Dredd Scott


          Absolute immunity.

    2. Also talks about the Constitution, which SCOTUS is the ultimate arbiter of, at least in the judicial system.

  14. OK wow that makes a lot of se e dude.

  15. I’m still trying to figure out what is the threat to me if some corporation buys a commercial or a billboard ad.

    Speech cannot harm me. Advertise away. I don’t understand the big deal, why liberals are in such a fright over this?

    1. Because they think that advertising is some kind of brainwashing and that whoever spends the most money in a political campaign will win.

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