Attorney General Steve Bullock has urged the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Montana’s century-old ban on corporate spending in political races and reject an attempt to dismantle it. In a brief filed Friday for the state, Bullock and two associates asked the court to deny the attempt by American Tradition Partnership and others to review and overturn the Montana Supreme Court’s decision in December that upheld the state Corrupt Practices Act. “No precedent of this court supports summary invalidation of a long-established state law so critical to its republican form of government,” wrote Bullock and attorneys Anthony Johnstone and James Molloy for the state.
American Tradition Partnership, formerly known as Western Tradition Partnership, sought to throw out the Montana law after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that granted political speech rights to corporations. However, the Montana Supreme Court, in a 5-2 decision, upheld the state law and ruled that corporations aren’t deprived of political speech here.
Corporations can’t make independent political expenditures from their treasuries in state political races under the Corrupt Practices Act, the court said. But they can form political committees, funded with voluntary donations from executives, employees and shareholders, and donate to campaigns. After the Montana ruling, American Tradition Partnership successfully petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to temporarily stop the enforcement of the state law until it could file a petition, known as a writ of certiorari, to appeal and seek reversal of the decision. The U.S. Supreme Court isn’t obliged to take up the case.