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The Mechanics
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Law Mon Jun 25 2012

Supreme Court Decision on Montana Statute Could Effect Local, State Elections

Taking the opportunity to go out of lockstep, the Montana Supreme Court upheld a state statute forbidding corporate expenditures on elections or political questions, sourced in the destabilizing political power held by the state's old mining interests going back to its territorial days. The parties challenging the statute appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on the grounds that the statue conflicted with the Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC. The case was to be decided without additional briefing or oral arguments. To the question of whether states could regulate corporate spending independently, the Court, in a per curiam decision, let out a disinterested nyope, consisting of about three sentences of legal reasoning:

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, this Court struck down a similar federal law, holding that "political speech does not lose First Amendment protection simply because its source is a corporation." 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. 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.

Any hopes states had of passing their own uniquely tailored legislation to keep corporate cash out of state and local elections just diminished a little bit. Justice Breyer, joined by the liberal and moderate justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, dissented.


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