Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning
This week, the Montana Supreme Court stood up to the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, rejecting the much-criticized 2010 federal decision by declaring that, in their state at least, a century-old prohibition on corporate money in local politics will be allowed to stand.
By way of a 5-2 decision in Western Tradition Partnership, Inc. vs. Attorney General of Montana [PDF], the state's high court upheld the constitutionality of the long-standing Corrupt Practices Act of 1912, which prevents direct contributions by corporations to candidates or political committees. The law does not, however, prohibit voluntary individual contributions to separate segregated funds created by shareholders, employees or members of a corporation.
The state law also mandates disclosure of who pays for political communications, while the 2010 Citizens United ruling allows for unlimited secret money to flood into campaigns, for use either for or against any particular candidate.
The majority opinion in the Montana case, written by Chief Justice Mike McGrath, sought to distinguish their state law from Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission [PDF] by pointing to factors in the state --- its dependence upon agriculture and extractive resource development, as well as its sparse population and history of low campaign expenditures --- which, he claimed, make the state "especially vulnerable to...corporate control to the detriment of democracy".
Even one of the dissenters in the MT decision, Justice James C. Nelson, while making clear that he believes the SCOTUS decision likely takes legal precedent over their own state law, offered a blistering critique to the very underpinnings of Citizens United --- a case we previously predicted "will live in infamy" --- by taking direct aim at the absurd concept of "corporate personhood" in his dissenting opinion...