Groups petition Supreme Court to overturn Montana ban on corporate campaign spending

[JURIST] American Tradition Partnership, Montana Shooting Sports Association [advocacy websites] and Champion Painting have petitioned the US Supreme Court [official website] to reverse the decision by the Montana Supreme Court [official website] in Western Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Montana that upheld a Montana campaign finance law [JURIST report] banning corporate independent expenditures to state political campaigns and candidates. The three groups argue that Montana's century-old ban on corporate spending, implemented by the 1912 Corrupt Practices Act [PPL backgrounder], is illegal [Great Falls Tribune report] in light of the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [JURIST report], which declared that a state cannot impose a complete ban on corporate spending. The Montana Supreme Court stated that the ban on corporate spending is legal because it still allows for some corporate spending and was in response to rampant political corruption by the "Copper Kings" [Great Falls Tribune backgrounder]. Specifically, the law allows corporations to set up Political Action Committees (PACs) to fund political speech, but PACs are subject to special state disclosure and reporting laws.

Campaign finance [JURIST news archive] has been a hotly contested issue recently. Two weeks ago, the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] struck down [JURIST report] a Wisconsin law that prohibited people from donating more than $10,000 per year to political action committees. In June, the US Supreme Court ruled that an Arizona campaign finance regulation violated the First Amendment [JURIST report]. In May, the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit [official website] upheld [JURIST report] a Minnesota law that prohibited direct contributions to candidates and affiliated entities. The US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] ruled in 2009 that a Connecticut campaign finance law discriminated against minor party candidates [JURIST report] in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Correction: Prior versions of this article referred to direct corporate campaign contributions opposed to corporate "independent expenditures." Updated February 16, 2012.

 

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