Montana Case Upholding Corporate Ban on Independent Expenditures Appealed to US Supreme Court - State and Federal Communications

February 10, 2012  •  

Montana Case Upholding Corporate Ban on Independent Expenditures Appealed to US Supreme Court

Supreme Courts and Citizens UnitedA Montana Supreme Court’s decision upholding the state’s law prohibiting independent political expenditures by a corporation related to a candidate, in spite of Citizens United v. FEC, has been appealed to the US Supreme Court.

According to the SCOTUSblog, Justice Kennedy has called for a response from the state of Montana by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, February 15.

For a detailed explanation of the appeal, see Lyle Denniston’s article on SCOTUSblog at

In December of last year, the Montana Supreme Court found Citizens United v. FEC did not compel invalidating the state’s 1912 Corrupt Practices Act.

In the Court’s majority opinion in Western Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Attorney General of the State of Montana, the Court wrote, “The corporate power that can be exerted with unlimited political spending is still a vital interest to the people of Montana.”

The Court concluded the state, because of its history and the history of the Act, has a compelling interest to impose statutory restrictions, emphasizing the Citizens United decision allows restrictions to be upheld if the government demonstrates a sufficiently strong interest.

In making its argument, the decision asserts that a “material factual distinction between the present case and Citizens United is the extent of the regulatory burden imposed by the challenged law.” The Court found in contrast to the “complexity and ambiguity” of restrictions for federal PACs, PACs formed and maintained in the state are “easily implemented” by the filing of “simple and straight-forward forms or reports.”

Attorney James Bopp, Jr., counsel of record for the petitioner, argues for the US Supreme Court to summarily reverse the Montana decision, writing, “The lower court’s refusal to follow Citizens United is such an obvious, blatant disregard of its duty to follow this Court’s decisions that summary reversal is proper.”

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