Montana’s new campaign disclosure law has survived its first test, with a federal judge rejecting arguments that it unconstitutionally interferes with the free speech of groups that want to influence elections without revealing where they get their money or how they spend it. U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen, in ruling for the state Monday, cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 that allowed unlimited corporate spending in elections. In that case, the justices ruled that although disclosure requirements burden the ability to speak, they are constitutional because they don’t prevent anyone from speaking. A dramatic rise in election spending has left Montana voters inundated with political television ads and mailers that seek to inform — or misinform — the voters and sway their opinions, Christensen wrote in the decision.
“Providing Montana voters with information about individuals and groups competing for their attention serve important government interests,” the judge wrote.
The Montana Legislature passed the Disclose Act in 2015 amid concerns of the role that so-called dark money groups have played in elections since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The law requires more disclosure of political committees’ contributors and spending, adds more reporting deadlines and restricts coordination between candidates and outside groups.