U.S. Supreme Court strikes 1912 state ban on corporate donations
HELENA—The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 order Monday, summarily reversed a Montana Supreme Court decision and struck down Montana’s century-old ban on corporate spending for or against political candidates.
The ruling opens the door for corporations and unions to spend directly from their treasury on advertising and other “independent expenditures” promoting or opposing candidates in Montana state office elections this year, for the first time in 100 years.
Some Montana officials denounced the ruling, calling it a “blow to democracy” and vowing to fight it in the future.
“Our fight is far from over,” said U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who has introduced a bill to amend the Constitution to say corporations aren’t people. “My constitutional amendment would right this wrong once and for all, and today’s announcement makes me more determined than ever to get it done.”
“I am very disappointed in what the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision means for state and local elections in Montana– and for our entire nation,” added state Attorney General Steve Bullock, who unsuccessfully defended Montana’s law. Bullock, a Democrat, is running for governor.
Yet the only Republican member of Montana’s congressional delegation, Rep. Denny Rehberg, essentially praised the ruling as an upholding of free speech rights.
“Free speech, including political speech, is guaranteed by the First Amendment no matter what state you live in,” he said. “For Montanans, this means free speech is protected equally if you are a member of a labor union, a private business or a political party.”
He said the correct response is strong laws requiring those who spend money on elections to report their spending.
The decision was a clear victory for American Tradition Partnership, a conservative, anti-environmentalist group from Washington, D.C. It had arguedMontana’s 1912 law was unconstitutional under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which granted free speech to corporations and unions.
A summary reversal by the U.S. Supreme Court means it overturned a lower court decision without any legal briefing or oral arguments on the case.
In the unsigned order, the five-member majority said there can be “no serious doubt” that Citizens United applies
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