Montana’s Rejection of Citizens United as Precedent Goes to U.S. Supreme Court

Today Justice Kennedy granted a stay (suspending the Montana Supreme Court ruling and Montana’s ban on corporate electioneering) sought by the plaintiffs, pending the filing an appeal by the American Tradition Partnership. This commentary by election law expert Rick Hasen nicely summarizes the meaning and consequences of this action.

On February 10, the James Madison Center asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of the Montana Supreme Court ruling that upheld the state’s Corrupt Practices Act, which bans direct corporate electioneering in state elections. The Montana ruling was the first instance of a state successfully defending a ban on corporate electoral spending (see this op-ed on that tremendous victory in December) since the 2010 Citizens United v FEC ruling. The SCOTUS Blog reports Justice Anthony Kennedy asked for a response from Montana in just one week.

The American Tradition Partnership and other corporations challenging Montana’s law filed the stay application, which would block the Montana Supreme Court ruling and allow corporations to spend freely in Montana elections this year, pending a petition for certiorari (review) to be filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by the plaintiffs. The stay application also asks that the Montana Supreme Court decision be summarily reversed (i.e. without any hearing or opportunity for Montana to argue its case).

One way or another, this case will be a pivotal one for the Democracy Movement. We urge you to do all you can to express your disgust with the idea of allowing corporations to claim the political rights of citizens and support the right of citizens to protect the integrity of their state elections. For further background on the Western Tradition Partnership v Montana case, see:

Notably, both of Montana’s U.S. Senators have stated support for amending the Constitution to protect elections from being corrupted by corporate electioneering. Senator Jon Tester opined recently in the Billings Gazette and Max Baucus drafted his own Amendment last year specifically to authorize regulation of corporate election spending. Neither has indicated willingness to directly confront the Supreme Court’s invention of applying constitutional rights to corporations.

Both Senators are mainstream Democrats and among the leading recipients of corporate-connected campaign contributions (Baucus from health care and health insurance interests and Tester from credit card companies and large banks).

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