More About Montana's Challenge to Citizens United

Category:  BloggERy
Friday, January 6th, 2012 at 9:39 PM
More About Montana's Challenge to Citizens United by Jay Stevens
Montana Department of Justice

There's been some great commentary written about the Montana Supreme Court's challenge to Citizens United, which lifted restraints on corporate spending in elections. Dahlia Lithwick's is probably the best:

The Montana court more or less announced it would uphold that state’s corporate spending ban because they know a lot more about political corruption than Anthony Kennedy does. The Montana law was enacted in 1912 and provides that “a corporation may not make a contribution or an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political committee that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party." After the Supreme Court handed down the Citizens United decision in 2010, many similar state laws were struck down by the courts or repealed, and a lower court in Montana agreed that the Montana ban was unconstitutional as well, finding that “Citizens United is unequivocal: the government may not prohibit independent and indirect corporate expenditures on political speech.”

But by a 5-2 margin, Montana’s high court determined that the state law survived “strict scrutiny” because Montana’s unique context and history justified the ban in ways not contemplated by Citizens United.

Lithwick brings up some great points about Citizens United and the recent Montana decision.

First, Montana's decision came just days after $14 million was spent by corporate PACs on the Iowa caucus, an unheard-of amount of money, most of which supported Mitt Romney.

Second, that the spending in Iowa illustrated the naive pronouncements on corporate power made by SCOTUS justices in Citizens United, including this one from Anthony Kennedy, usually the swing vote in any close SCOTUS vote: “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

Lithwick also brings up the context of the Montana court decision, including the state's sordid political past in which copper money corrupted government. (At one point, Pennsylvania-born William Clark bribed the state legislature to elect him Senator. They did, and the US Senate refused to seat him. Clark's fradulent "election" led to the 17th Amendment. Remember that the next time some wide-eyed conservative "originalist" rails against that particular constitutional amendment.)

Another factor is that the Montana Supreme Court itself is elected into office. But what Dahlia didn't note is that court members tend to be left-of-center (it's a nonpartisan office) in some part because trial lawyers -- traditionally progressive -- tend to throw lots of money into the race. In fact, the Montana Supreme Court election has been a target for public financing of elections because voting reformers feel they'd have support from conservatives on the issue.

Dahlia suspected that the justices sought to deny Citizens United power over state law because an election was approaching -- but there's also the fact that those same justices are very aware of the role that money plays in elections.

Meanwhile, state AG Steve Bullock and Democratic candidate for governor this year is getting a lot of press for bringing the case to the court.

If you follow the link, you'll see Bullock's explanation in layman's terms what legal basis he thought Montana had in letting the state campaign finance law stand.

Erie Reader: Vol. 4, No. 18
Now Available — Pick It Up Today

CURRENT

Second hand stores pose a problematic aesthetic.

It's billed as the 'Biggest Little Fair Around.' And this year's -- its 70th -- is around for one (more) night only.

FILM at the EAM returns Wednesday. Great titles and big names ahead.

Anonymous organization has two messages for Erie: "Obey Kunco" and "UGLY"

Night Lights Music Festival set to host Snarky Puppy, two dozen other bands for a two-day spectacular of sights and sound.

IN THIS ISSUE

The horror, the horror --

After going 18-6 (14-6 in high schools, 4-0 in colleges) last week, JRL's back with Week 2 and 3 gridiron picks.

A traveling art exhibit that provides a look at what we have and what we may be losing.

Black Science is where the pursuit of knowledge meets anarchist abandon. No technology or taboo is off limits for these zealous scientists, and anarchist scientist Grant McKay has invented the “Pillar,” a device that can punch through time and space, dissolving all barriers to the multiverse. 

Erie native draws on his past, embraces his future.

A look at the upcoming season, including performances by Anais Mitchell, Ben Sollee, and Jose James.

Mascis trades in the searing solos of his Jazzmaster for the softer picks and strums of his Martin, putting on a plucking performance in soft and sweet numbers like “Me Again” and “Wide Awake,” the latter of which he sings with Chan Marshall of Cat Power fame.

The new album kicks off with fun contributions from Newman and Case in the title track and “Champions of Red Wine” before turning into a party on Bejar’s synth and harmonica assisted “War on the East Coast.”

Three waterfront projects, three ways to develop Erie's economy. 

The Staten Island, N.Y. band has always employed a sort of manic energy during their music, but LOSE sounds like a band that has matured, able to blend their excitable sonic freakouts with doses of restraint.