Montana Dissed Citizens United
Law.com reports (registration required, but it’s free). FTA:
In Citizens United, the Court ruled that the First Amendment prohibited government from limiting the independent spending of corporations and unions on “electioneering,” or communicating about a particular candidate.
The Montana court, reversing a lower state court that struck down Montana’s law as unconstitutional, cited Montana’s unique political history and differences between the state statute and the federal law at issue in Citizens United.
“The District Court erroneously construed and applied the Citizens United case,” wrote Chief Justice Mike McGrath in the majority opinion, in which four colleagues concurred. “The corporate power that can be exerted with unlimited political spending is still a vital interest to the people of Montana.”
Two judges dissented. In a lengthy opinion, Judge James Nelson showed open disdain for the rationale behind Citizens United but said he felt compelled to follow the precedent.
“While, as a member of this Court, I am bound to follow Citizens United, I do not have to agree with the [U.S.] Supreme Court’s decision,” Nelson wrote. “And, to be absolutely clear, I do not agree with it. For starters, the notion that corporations are disadvantaged in the political realm is unbelievable. Indeed, it has astounded most Americans. The truth is that corporations wield enormous power in Congress and in state legislatures. It is hard to tell where government ends and corporate America begins: the transition is seamless and overlapping.”
Judge Nelson, writing in (legal if not principle) dissent, is quoted here for excellence in verbiage:
“In sum, what has happened here is essentially this: The [U.S.] Supreme Court…rejected several asserted governmental interests; and this Court has now come along, retrieved those interests from the garbage can, dusted them off, slapped a ‘Made in Montana’ sticker on them, and held them up as grounds for sustaining a patently unconstitutional state statute,” he wrote.
Full title of the court case: “Western Tradition Partnership, Inc., Champion Painting, Inc., and Montana Shooting Sports Association, Inc., Petitioners and Appellees v. Attorney General of the State of Montana, and the Commissioner of Political Practices, Respondents and Appellants”. Synopsis, Amicus Curiae, etc. available here. Legal eagles discuss!