Supreme Court blocks enforcement of Montana campaign spending law

The US Supreme Court on Feb. 17 blocked enforcement of a Montana Supreme Court ruling, which upheld a state law limiting the amount of money corporations can spend on campaigns, until it can consider an appeal from the corporations challenging the law. The Montana court ruling in Western Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Montana appears to conflict with the 2010 US Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission , which struck down a regulation that prohibited corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds for "electioneering communications" aimed at supporting or opposing a political candidate. The 1912 Corrupt Practices Act upheld by the Montana Supreme Court prohibits the same activity. The plaintiffs will now have to apply for a writ of certiorari to have the case heard by the Court. If cert is granted, this case is likely to play out as an attempt to narrow the scope of, or overrule Citizens United.

American Trade Partnership, Montana Shooting Sports Association and Champion Painting, plaintiffs in this case, petitioned the US Supreme Court to overturn the Montana court's decision last week. The Montana court ruled that the law did not violate the First Amendment and distinguished it from Citizens United because it still allowed for corporations to voice their political opinions in other ways, including lobbying and creating political action committees. The plaintiffs argue that upholding this law directly conflicts with the Citizens United ruling. Campaign finance has been a hot button issue ever since that ruling, which led the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit strike down a Wisconsin law that limited the amount any individual could donate to political action committees in a year. The Supreme Court also struck down an Arizona law that provided subsidies for candidates who have had independent expenditures used against them. The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, however, upheld a Minnesota law in May that prohibited direct contributions to candidates and affiliates.

From Jurist, Feb. 19. Used with permission.

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Supreme Court strikes down Montana campaign finance law