The Montana Supreme Court in Helena stands just off the main drag, dramatically called Last Chance Gulch Street. The picturesque setting is fitting for an institution that has just challenged the U.S. Supreme Court to a legal showdown on the enormously important question of whether corporations should have an unfettered right to dominate elections or whether citizens have the right to adopt commonsense protections to defend democratic government from corruption. Get the kids off the streets, because this could be an epic confrontation.
In upholding the section of Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act that restricts direct corporate political spending, the Montana Supreme Court attacked the Citizens United fiction that independent expenditures aren’t corrupting and that corporate political spending isn’t a danger to democratic government. The Montana jurists’ decision in Western Tradition Partnership states unequivocally, “The impact of unlimited corporate donations creates a dominating impact on the political process and inevitably minimizes the impact of individual citizens.” The decision will no doubt be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But two years after the Citizens United decision, there has been ample evidence of the harm it’s inflicted on our electoral system.
The history of corruption in Montana serves as a powerful reminder of why campaign-finance regulations—rules to protect the political marketplace being dominated by the winners in the economic marketplace—were adopted in the first place. The Montana jurists write, “If the statute has worked to preserve a degree of political and social autonomy, is the State required to throw away its protections because the shadowy backers of [Western Tradition Partnership] seek to promote their interests? … We think not.”
Full Article: Battle of the Supremes.