Mont. SC to hear case on corporate campaign contributions

Jessica M. Karmasek Sep. 19, 2011, 2:16pm


HELENA, Mont. (Legal Newsline) -- The Montana Supreme Court this week will hear a case challenging the state's Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits corporate contributions in state political campaigns.

A group of business organizations led by Western Tradition Partnership filed a lawsuit challenging the act's constitutionality following last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission.

Considered a landmark decision, the nation's highest court held that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited because of the First Amendment.

The 5-4 ruling in favor of Citizens United stemmed from a dispute over whether the non-profit corporation could air a film critical of current U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In turn, Montana's First Judicial District Court ruled that its Corrupt Practices Act was a ban of "corporate political speech" and therefore it violated the First Amendment.

Having declared the act unconstitutional, the district court permanently enjoined the enforcement of the act.

Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock, also a Democratic candidate for governor, and the Commission on Political Practices appealed.

Numerous entities have filed amicus briefs in the case, including the Montana Trial Lawyers Association, the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana, the American Sustainable Business Council and former state Supreme Court Justices.

Oral arguments are set for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. Forty minutes will be given to the appellants and 30 minutes for the appellees, according to the state Supreme Court's website.

Bullock will be arguing for the State.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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