September 19, 2011 •
Effects of Citizen United on State Law to be Examined
The Montana Supreme Court on Wednesday will hear the state’s appeal of the 2010 decision in Western Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. State of Montana finding the state’s ban on direct corporate spending for or against political candidates unconstitutional.
Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock found the Montana law unconstitutional.
Attorney General Steve Bullock, who has stated the overturned law guaranteed citizens the right to participate in elections without their interests being overshadowed by corporations, will argue the case.
May 25, 2011 •
The appointment requires Senate confirmation.
Governor Brian Schweitzer has appointed Dave Gallik to serve as Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices.
Gallik previously worked as Staff Attorney for the Montana State Insurance Commissioner and served for several years in the Montana House of Representatives.
The Commissioner of Political Practices is appointed to serve one six-year term and requires Senate confirmation.
Photo of the Montana State Capitol courtesy of Galaksiafervojo on Wikipedia.
May 9, 2011 •
Governor to Make New Appointment
Jennifer Hensley, who has held the position of Commissioner of Political Practices since her nomination in January of 2011, was refused confirmation by the Senate. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a brief confirmation hearing on Hensley’s nomination, but never voted on her nomination before adjournment of the legislative session.
Governor Schweitzer asked the top four Republican and Democratic legislative leaders to send him a list of nominees for the position by May 11. The Governor may choose a nominee from the list or make an independent appointment to serve out the remainder of Hensley’s six-year term.
March 25, 2011 •
Law Effective October 1, 2011
House Bill 89 has been signed into law by Governor Brian Schweitzer. The bill removes the requirement that political committees, organized to support a state district candidate or issue, file reports of contributions of $100 or more with the county election administrator.
These contribution reports will only be filed with the Commissioner of Political Practices.
The new law becomes effective October 1, 2011.
December 27, 2010 •
Former Senate Staff Member Tagged to Replace Montana’s Top Ethics Official
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer announced Friday he has chosen Jennifer Hensley to serve as the state’s top ethics official. Hensley will replace the current Commissioner of Political Practices Dennis Unsworth, whose six-year term expires at the end of the year.
A bipartisan group of four legislative leaders submitted the names of four candidates to the governor, including Hensley who has worked on several political and initiative campaigns and is the wife of state Senator Steve Gallus. Hensley must be confirmed by the senate before beginning a six-year term.
November 24, 2010 •
Political Groups Seek to Invalidate Several Campaign Finance Laws and Challenge the Authority of the Office of Political Practices
Western Tradition Partnership and the Montana Citizens for Right to Work have filed suit challenging several Montana campaign finance laws that impose “onerous and constitutional burdens upon (those) engaged in political speech.” The suit seeks to exempt the two groups from campaign finance laws and further investigation by the state, but also claims the Office of Political Practices’ entire investigative process is unconstitutional.
Montana Political Practices Commissioner Dennis Unsworth ruled October 21 that Western Tradition Partnership is a political committee and had violated state law by failing to report campaign-related spending or its donors. The groups maintained in their complaint that they engage in “issue advocacy” communication and are not subject to Montana’s political committee laws, and that the laws themselves are unconstitutionally vague.
November 3, 2010 •
Tea Party Organization Seeks to Further Topple Montana Campaign Contribution Law
Montana Shrugged, a tea party group, filed suit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Billings, naming as defendants the state political practices commissioner and Attorney General Steve Bullock. The lawsuit, filed with the help of the James Madison Center for Free Speech in Terre Haute, Ind., says Montana laws requiring financial reporting by political committees and corporations are unconstitutionally vague.
Montana Attorney General Bullock stated the lawsuit is part of a nationwide plot to torpedo state laws that require public reporting on who funds political campaigns. The lawsuit specifically challenges Montana’s restrictions on corporate contributions after a Montana court ruling last month overturned a law barring corporate independent expenditures and upheld the state’s restrictions on corporate contributions to political candidates.
Photo of the State capitol in Helena by Monty Johnson on Wikipedia.
October 21, 2010 •
Montana Judge Rules Law Prohibiting Independent Corporate Contributions is Unconstitutional
District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock of Helena ruled Monday that the 1912 Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibited corporations from making independent political expenditures, is unconstitutional. Bozeman attorney Margot Barg argued on behalf of the plaintiffs, a gun rights organization and a local painting company, that corporations are entitled to make the same sort of free political speech as individuals citing the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
Judge Sherlock wrote that the Montana law, “insofar as it prevents corporations from making independent expenditures to support or oppose political candidates or political parties, is declared unconstitutional.” Restrictions on corporate contributions to political candidates are not affected by the decision. Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock plans to appeal the district court’s ruling.
October 5, 2010 •
Court to Examine Long-standing Montana Law Banning Corporate Campaign Contributions
A Montana district judge will rule on a challenge to Montana’s nearly century-old, voter-passed restriction on direct corporate spending to support or oppose political parties or candidates. The Montana law is being challenged based upon the U.S. Supreme Court’s January ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which overturned a federal ban on corporate spending in political campaigns.
Attorneys for the State of Montana defended the law stating that a law enacted in 1912 should not be lumped with a law Congress enacted 90 years later under a one-size-fits-all federal rule. They added that corporations do speak freely in Montana elections under current law with nearly 200 political action committees active in state politics in the past decade and warned unlimited corporate campaign spending would drastically alter Montana’s current campaigns that rely on person-to-person contact.
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