The first-time registration of a Missoula law firm as a political action committee appears to indicate a shift in the political landscape since the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The high court’s decision five years ago this month found independent expenditures by corporations are protected under the First Amendment, and it struck down a ban on those contributions. The Supreme Court subsequently found Montana’s ban on independent spending by corporations to be unconstitutional. Now, changes are afoot to tighten remaining campaign finance regulations in Montana, and Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl has been active in enforcing existing ones. “What we have left in Montana is reporting and disclosure,” Motl said.
Reporting, though, still has limitations.
To some extent, campaign finance law enforcers are playing “whack-a-mole,” said Anthony Johnstone, the lawyer who argued to the Supreme Court that Montana’s ban on corporate political money should stand.
“In general, the rules of campaign finance have not kept up with the political realities after Citizens United,” said Johnstone, who teaches at the University of Montana School of Law.