Mon 25 Jun, 2012 08:50 am
Supreme Court Reversed Anti-Citizens United Ruling From Montana
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday struck down Montana's century-old limits on corporate political spending, putting an end to the state's resistance to Citizens United and effectively expanding that controversial ruling to the state and local elections.
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, decided in January 2010, struck down federal limits on campaign spending by corporations and unions as violations of the First Amendment. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing on behalf of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, reached the bold conclusion that "independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption," and therefore "[n]o sufficient governmental interest justifies limits on the political speech of nonprofit or for-profit corporations."
In December 2011, the Montana Supreme Court disagreed. It found that the state's Gilded Age history of business-driven corruption was sufficient to justify the state's Corrupt Practices Act. Passed by voter referendum in 1912, the law decrees that a "corporation may not make ... an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political party that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party."
By summarily reversing the case, American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock, the justices refused to reconcile their sweeping statement of free speech principles in Citizens United with the real-world facts -- from Montana's history to today's super PACs -- put forward by Montana and its supporters to demonstrate that independent expenditures do, indeed, corrupt or create the appearance of corruption.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, wrote to dissent from the summary reversal.