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Tuesday, 21 February 2012 21:03

Deja vu all over again

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The Supreme Court has done it again, sticking it to Montanans last week like it did to the Arizonans in 2010.  SCOTUS stayed implementation of a 100 year old Montana law that prohibited corporations from spending money on political campaigns. 100 years. A century of Montana state legal precedent thrown out by the SCOTANS because … apparently they like how the political system has flourished under Citizens United and the resulting flood of corporate campaign spending.

The 100 year old law had been challenged in Montana courts, and was subsequently upheld by the Montana Supreme Court last December. But now, after a century of elections free of corporate money, SCOTUS has ensured that when Montanans turn on their TVs in 2012, they will be treated to the same political entertainment that the rest of us have been enjoying since early 2010.

Arizona experienced the SCOTUS touch in 2010, when the court stopped Clean Elections money from being distributed to candidates who had signed up for public financing under state law. The Clean Elections money is to help people campaign without the influence of special interest financing, including corporate money. The court action came in the middle of an election cycle, and had a profound effect on the election outcomes, in which many Clean Elections incumbents were defeated when vastly outspent by privately financed candidates. Arizona’s law was intended to provide a path for candidates to enter office without the corrupting influence of private money. Montana’s law was instituted in reaction to huge corporate spending that had corrupted state politics for decades.

There is one hopeful aspect to this ruling - Justices Ginsbrug and Breyer have taken the opportunity of the Montana stay to try to reopen the Citizens United decision. I wish them good luck with that.

Before you go … the Montana statute is very simple and direct; not elegant, but clear and articulate; what we might expect from a state of conservative ranchers. It has endured for 100 years, but likely won’t live to see 101.. Read the text of the statute below.


13-35-227. Prohibited contributions from corporations. (1) 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.
    (2) A person, candidate, or political committee may not accept or receive a corporate contribution described in subsection (1).
    (3) This section does not prohibit the establishment or administration of a separate, segregated fund to be used for making political contributions or expenditures if the fund consists only of voluntary contributions solicited from an individual who is a shareholder, employee, or member of the corporation.
    (4) A person who violates this section is subject to the civil penalty provisions of 13-37-128.
    History: En. Sec. 25, Init. Act, Nov. 1912; re-en. Sec. 10790, R.C.M. 1921; re-en. Sec. 10790, R.C.M. 1935; Sec. 94-1444, R.C.M. 1947; redes. 23-4744 by Sec. 29, Ch. 513, L. 1973; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 296, L. 1975; R.C.M. 1947, 23-4744; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 404, L. 1979; amd. Sec. 1, I.M. No. 125, Nov. 5, 1996; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 294, L. 1997 (voided by I.R. No. 114, Nov. 3, 1998); amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 59, L. 2003.

Last modified on Saturday, 03 March 2012 18:44

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