Montana Ban On Corporate Campaigning Heading To U.S. Supreme Court
A late 2011 decision by Montana's state Supreme Court upholding its century-old ban on corporate campaign spending is heading to the U.S. Supreme Court, as activist Republican lawyers have filed papers asking the high court to stay--or freeze--that ban in the upcoming 2012 election season, arguing that the Montana Supreme Court cannot ignore the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial Citizens United ruling.
The brief filed by James Bopp, who heads a political law firm that has targeted state and federal laws limiting campaign spending and disclosure, primarily says that Montana's high court is bound to follow the U.S. Supreme Court--which is what is known as the 'supremacy clause' in the Constitution. But when Montana's justices issued their ruling, the majority said they found a way to affirm their state's right to regulate corporate campaigning within Supreme Court doctrine.
The legal implications and issues are clearly explained on ElectionLawBlog.org, which predicts the Montana court will eventually lose--but at the cost of the U.S. Supreme Court saying that they really don't care about state anti-corruption laws, all they care about is letting everybody, including the wealthiest people and institutions, say whatever they want in political campaigns.
This fight does not come in a political vacuum. Montana's Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester is up for re-election and outside political groups, including one run by Karl Rove, are targeting the race, The New York Times today noted in an editorial that also said Tester and his opponent are discussing an outside-money truce.
But the corporation represented by Jim Bopp in this Supreme Court filing is from Colorado--not Montana--suggesting that such a truce will be wishful thinking, especially if the U.S. Supreme Court stays the Montana decision and the opens the political money floodgates to corporate spending.
The U.S. Supreme Court has asked Montana to reply by February 15, signaling the case's importance.