It may be surprising that the biggest blow to corporations in 2011 didn’t come from Wall Street protestors. Late last month Montana’s Supreme Court took a swing at corporate spending in elections holding, in spite of the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee, that a 100-year-old law banning corporate spending was valid. In doing so, the court held that the lower court’s reading of Citizens United was erroneous. The Court in Citizens United said, “Laws burdening such speech are subject to strict scrutiny, which requires the Government to prove that the restriction ‘furthers a compelling interest and is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.’”
So what exactly should be considered a “compelling interest” for bans on political spending? The Supreme Court of Montana answers bluntly that they have met the standard of review set out in Citizens United. In assessing Chief Justice McGrathexplains Montana’s long standing fight against corporate spending.Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock (also a 2012gubernatorial candidate) in presenting the case brought forward two affidavits from former house representatives who contended that, “Montana, with its small population, enjoys political campaigns marked by person-to-person contact and a low cost of advertising as compared to other states.” Mike Cooney, former Democratic representative, stated that he ran his first legislative campaign on $750. It is not hard to see how a large influx of corporate spending could completely change the make up of Montana elections. The Court continued to say that Montana has a clear interest in protecting the participation of the electorate, and that corporate spending might diminish participation.