Montanta Supreme Court rejects Citizens United


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. In his majority opinion, Chief Justice Mike McGrath dove deep into that history, ranging back over the “tumultuous years … marked by rough contests for political and economic domination primarily in the mining center of Butte, between mining and industrial enterprises controlled by foreign trusts or corporations.” Noting that, back in the last Gilded Age, Montana’s wealthy “Copper Kings” bought judges and senators, picked the location of the capital, and owned the media, McGrath pointed to Montana’s vast size, sparse population, low-cost elections, and long history of having its resources plundered by foreign corporate interests to emphasize that the state has a compelling interest in maintaining its ban.

McGrath lays it out this way: “The question then, is when in the last 99 years did Montana lose the power or interest sufficient to support the statute, if it ever did. If the statute has worked to preserve a degree of political and social autonomy is the State required to throw away its protections?” The majority went out of its way to note that unlimited campaign spending on judicial elections is also having a profoundly damaging effect on judicial integrity all around the country.

I entirely agree. It’s an interesting legal approach to focus on the actual history rather than ridiculous hypotheticals.

The plantiff is hilarious:

Thus Western Tradition Partnership, the lead plaintiff in the case, merits extra special scorn from the court for circulating a fundraising brochure that said, “If you decide to support this program, no politician, no bureaucrat, and no radical environmentalist will ever know you made this program possible.” The majority openly accuses WTP of being responsible for “a multi-front attack on both contribution restrictions and the transparency that accompanies campaign disclosure requirements.” The Montana majority, in other words, knows exactly what Justice Kennedy seems to have missed: That corruption is corruption regardless of its packaging, and that it rarely comes with a detailed disclosure label.

How do you jibe this with the fact that Montana is a red state as well as a libertarian state, yet you insist on everyone voting for one of two parties? This shows that determined individualists are the only ones with the guts to go against corporate politics.


Some issues are only supported by a bipartisan set of rich people and a tiny subset of poor libertarians; this is one of them. The broad-weak opinion against (and the strong opinions of the largely-powerless and badly funded ACLU types) gets squashed because elite opinion and money is so dominating. Even something like 60% of Republicans think the US is run for the benefit of a small number of rich people - they just disagree on who the rich people are.

No idea why the Montana SC, of all places, is bucking the trend on this.

Edit: Oh god, I misspelled the state name in the thread title. FML.

Montana isn’t bucking any trend. Most state and local legislatures/courts are going ape-shit. Only the SCOTUS went in for it. It’s actually difficult (perhaps because of the booze, admittedly) for me to think of any citizen group besides corporate managers/executives that supports the political theory of corporations-as-citizens.

Montana has a real anti-outsider thing going on, from what I’ve read, and this is a good hands-off-our-state tactic.

Do you have any links about other states doing the same? That would be a pleasant surprise.

I’m not sure to what degree Montana should be considered a “red” state though. Yes, they’ve tended to go Republican on presidential elections (though McCain only won it in '08 by about 11,000 votes) and their one house seat, but one of the Senators (Baucus) has been in office forever and is a democrat, and they’ve had plenty of democratic governors. There are plenty of liberal pockets in the state as well.

You can track the backlash a little bit on http:// though it’s a fairly bog standard, DONATE NOW, news aggregation website. Also: #occupy

But here are a couple of news hits:

“There are currently at least four resolutions in the House of Representatives seeking a constitutional amendment to counteract Citizens United. In the Senate, Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have introduced their own amendments, which specifically give Congress and state legislatures more power to write new laws stanching the flow of political cash. Both say the Senate will likely take up their bills next year.
Legislators in nine states have also offered and/or passed similar statewide resolutions. Last week, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley urged legislative leaders to speed passage of a state resolution that would “put the electoral process back in the hands of the people, not corporations.””
“Yesterday, six Democratic senators — Tom Udall (NM), Michael Bennett (CO), Tom Harkin (IA), Dick Durbin (IL), Chuck Schumer (NY), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), and Jeff Merkely (OR) — introduced a constitutional amendment that would effectively overturn the Citizens United case and restore the ability of Congress to properly regulate the campaign finance system.”
(note the date)
“Adding to a growing nationwide backlash against the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, California lawmakers have introduced a resolution that calls on Congress to “propose and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.” The New York City Council has just passed a similar resolution, echoing measures passed in Los Angeles, Oakland, Albany and Boulder.”
which may have been lifted from Democracy Now here., a group that has been organizing to reverse the Citizens United ruling, maintains a list of resolutions and ordinances abolishing corporate personhood. So far, Madison and Dane County, Wisconsin, Boulder, Colorado, Missoula, Montana, and Los Angeles have passed measures [similar to New York City].”

Sorry, I haven’t read the article yet, but how does a state court go about rejecting a supreme court decision? Doesn’t seem like it works like that.

I guess I wasn’t thinking of that backlash because it seemd like the usual liberal suspects; not going anywhere unless you get wingers on board too. Which is why Montana is a big surprise.

It’s a weird dynamic, but Kentucky has a nearly uninterrupted string of Democrat governors, so I wouldn’t use that as a litmus test.


Put this on a t-shirt: “I’ll believe a corporation is a person when Texas executes one.”

They didn’t reject it; they concluded that the law at issue survived strict scrutiny.

Southern states reasons for electing democrats historically are not the same as western states, though.

Besides, Montana as recently as a few years ago had a 50/50 state legislature. Where I think the presidential election misleads is because presidential elections in recent years have often had a large social issues element and Montana is certainly more conservative socially then many states. But on a lot of other issues its more liberal then people might assume from just looking at presidential election results.

I would buy that shirt.