Don’t tread on them:
Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia are backing Montana in its fight to prevent the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision from being used to strike down state laws restricting corporate campaign spending.
The Supreme Court is being asked to reverse a state court’s decision to uphold the Montana law. Virginia-based American Tradition Partnership is asking the nation’s high court to rule without a hearing because the group says the state law conflicts directly with the Citizens United decision that removed the federal ban on corporate campaign spending.
This is American Tradition Partnership:
American Tradition Partnership (ATP) is a no-compromise grassroots organization dedicated to fighting the radical environmentalist agenda. We support responsible development of natural resources and rational land use and management policies. Only together can we protect access, private property rights, and affordable energy for all Americans!
So, a front group for energy interests. Energy interests, of course, like poor defenseless private equity, have no influence in Congress and no voice in elite opinion (if you don’t count a majority in the US Senate) so can’t be expected to abide by any laws regulating corporate campaign spending, anywhere.
The Supreme Court has blocked the Montana law until it can look at the case.
The Montana case has prompted critics to hope the court will reverse itself on the controversial Citizens United ruling. The 22 states and D.C. say the Montana law is sharply different from the federal issues in the Citizens United case, so the ruling shouldn’t apply to Montana’s or other state laws regulating corporate campaign spending. But the states also said they would support a Supreme Court decision to reconsider portions of the Citizens United ruling either in a future case or in the Montana case, if the justices decide to take it on.
Legal observers say don’t count on the Supreme Court reconsidering its decision.”It is highly unlikely that the Court would reverse its decision in Citizens United,” said law professor Richard L. Hasen of the University of California-Irvine. At best, the court would listen to arguments and might agree a clarification is needed to allow the Montana law to stand. But even that is a long shot, Hasen said.
It’s a great story. Rugged individualist Montana tries to get out from under (to quote a respected conservative leader) these “black-robed tyrants and their radical agenda”:
It’s a legal long shot, but Montana’s attorney general is mounting a brave defense against the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that unleashed super PACs on American democracy.
To their credit, 22 other state attorneys general – including Washington’s Rob McKenna – are backing Steve Bullock’s attempt to protect Montana from the Citizens United ruling.
Montana was once a poster boy for money-corrupted politics; its history shows how vulnerable states are to the unlimited corporate spending the Supreme Court allowed when it overturned key federal campaign finance restrictions in 2010.
More than 100 years ago, Montana politicians were bought, sold and openly traded by mine-owners known as the Copper Kings. The bribery and other corruption were more or less inevitable, given the ease with which a handful of plutocrats could have their way with an agrarian state.
Montana lawmakers finally reined in the power of Anaconda Copper and other corporate barons by enacting the Corrupt Practices Act of 1912, which sharply curtailed how much they could spend electing friendly officeholders.
The history behind the Corrupt Practices Act flatly refutes Citizens United. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the majority decision in that case, proclaimed that “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”
Okey-doke. Might be time to occasionally leave that building and take a stroll out among us, Justice Kennedy.
You’ll recall we’ve had years of exhaustive coverage of the opposition to President Obama’s health care law (although, oddly, very little practical information on the provisions of the law) and here’s real opposition to the Citizens decision as applied to the states and it’s ignored. Of course, the Citizens decision is favored by libertarians, conservatives, and the millionaires who carry water for billionaires (but I repeat myself) and the health care law is not, so maybe that explains the disparity in coverage here.
Here’s the states’ brief:
the sovereign States have for over a century been enacting and enforcing laws regulating corporations’ expenditures in state and local political campaigns. Although the States’ laws governing corporate campaign expenditures vary in important respects, they all seek to ensure that such expenditures do not undermine principles of accountability and integrity in state and local elections, while protecting residents’ rights to participate in the electoral process.
Petitioners’ challenge to Montana’s election laws asks this Court to address the permissible limits of state regulation of independent corporate expenditures in state and local candidate elections under the First Amendment. Any decision by this Court here will have consequences for state laws across the country. The amici States therefore have a strong interest in the outcome of this case, and a particularly strong interest in opposing petitioners’ request that the Court summarily reverse the decision of Montana’s Supreme Court, based on the Court’s decision two years ago in Citizens United v. FEC.
And here are the states backing Montana:
New York, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Update: It occurs to me, reading the list of states, that this is bipartisan opposition!