The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider taking another bite of the corporate political free speech apple recently, accepting a petition asking justices to summarily overturn a Montana Supreme Court decision petitioners say flies in the face of Citizens United. Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission is the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision two years ago that basically negated campaign finance laws. In its ruling, the court said Congress shouldn’t be allowed to limit the amount corporations, unions and similar entities give to campaigns. In upholding a ban on corporate independent expenditures in state elections, the Montana Supreme Court determined that “unlike Citizens United, this case concerns Montana law, Montana elections and it arises from Montana history.” That ruling, the petition said, raises the question for the U.S. Supreme Court to consider: “Whether Montana is bound by the holding of Citizens United, that a ban on corporate independent political expenditures is a violation of the First Amendment, when the ban applies to state, rather than federal, elections.”
In asking for a summary judgment, the petition (American Tradition Partnership, et al., vs. Bullock, et al.) by two Montana corporations said the state’s top court was wrong in its reasoning about the origin of the flow of the vast sums of money pouring into election campaigns, among other things. The money isn’t coming from corporations, but people, the petition argued, and people have been free to spend pretty much as they see fit since 1976.
“The core holding of Citizens United,” the petition argued, “is that the independence of independent expenditures means that they pose no cognizable quid-pro-quo corruption risk and no other cognizable governmental interest justifies banning corporate independent expenditures. Thus, the Montana Supreme Court’s decision constitutes an attempt to force the reconsideration of Citizens United simply because it disagrees with the opinion. “That effort should be rejected summarily.” In March, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer argued the Montana case would give the Supreme Court a chance to rethink Citizens United.