The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to wade into the hot-button debate over corporate cash in politics again, just in time for the 2012 election season. The conservative group American Tradition Partnership announced plans Thursday to appeal a Montana Supreme Court ruling that upheld a state law banning corporations from spending to directly support or oppose candidates.
Campaign finance experts predict that the court will almost certainly address the ruling, since it’s seen as a direct challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision that allowed corporations, unions and other special interests to use their treasury funds to make or fund political ads that support or oppose political candidates.
… At least one justice on the Montana court isn’t expecting the state law to stand. “Citizens United is the law of the land, and this Court is duty-bound to follow it,” said Montana Supreme Court Justice James Nelson, one of the two dissenting judges in the 5-2 ruling issued on Dec. 30. “When this case is appealed to the Supreme Court, as I expect it will be, a summary reversal on the merits would not surprise me in the least,” he wrote. But campaign finance reform advocates see opportunity in re-opening the contentious debate at the federal level.
“We believe there’s a win-win situation here,” said John Bonifaz, the co-founder and director of Free Speech for People. If the high court refuses to address the decision, he said, it could give a green light to other states to limit corporations’ political spending.
“If they take it up, there will be a new opportunity to push forward all the arguments as to why the court got it wrong,” he said. And if they reaffirm their prior decision, “that will only fuel the efforts further to allow a constitutional amendment,” he said, noting that he would expect the court to make a decision by late June or early July.