Gavel Grab

Almost Half of the States Back Montana at Supreme Court

Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have sided with Montana in its effort to prevent use of the Supreme Court’s  Citizens United decision to invalidate state laws that restrict corporate spending on political campaigns.

A TIME blog post about the case, centering on a century-old Montana anti-corruption statute, explains why it’s in the public eye this election year:

“Trumpeted by liberals and advocates of stricter campaign-finance regulations, the matter has mushroomed into ‘perhaps the most serious challenge to date to the Citizens United decision,’ wrote the Nation‘s Katrina vanden Heuvel.”

But the court’s membership hasn’t changed since Citizens United was decided, and few expect the justices to reverse course. “While the Justices could issue a narrowly tailored ruling, they could also further cement the established precedent,” Alex Altman writes at the Swampland blog.

“If the polarized court opts to take the case, it would set up a pivotal showdown over a law that has reshaped U.S. politics, including a presidential race in which conservative super PACs are pouring cash into the fight to oust Barack Obama,” Altman adds.

Citizens United removed key restraints on spending from corporate and union treasuries to support or oppose federal candidates.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman wrote in an amicus brief on behalf of the states siding with Montana, ”The federal law struck down in Citizens United applied only to elections for President and U.S. Congress.” He added, according to an Associated Press article, “By contrast, Montana’s law applies to a wide range of state and local offices, including judgeships and law enforcement positions such as sheriff and county prosecutor.”

Justice at Stake has taken a stand in support of the Montana statute, warning in an amicus brief  that if the century-old law is overturned, the state “may find its courts once again bought by corporate special interests.” JAS joined eight retired Montana Supreme Court justices in the filing (see Gavel Grab).

Montana’s anti-corruption statute bars indirect corporate expenditures on state elections. The state Supreme Court found the state’s anti-corruption law constitutional, but the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked enforcement of that ruling.

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