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Montana defies SuperPAC: Citizens United
Like so many Americans, between the Christmas and New Years holiday week, items of importance have a tendency of slipping through the radar screen. One of particular interest, taking a backseat to my patriotic duty of fueling the economy, occurred in the Great State of Montana, otherwise known as Big Sky Country.
A defiant judgment by the Montana State Supreme Court, rebuked the SCOTUS Citizens United decision, citing it does not apply to Montana Campaign Finance Law. The State Supreme Court upheld Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act, a 1912 voter initiative, which specifically prohibits corporations from making political contributions on behalf of political candidates or parties.
State Attorney General Steve Bullock summed up Montana’s argument after the ruling stating: "For over 100 years, Montana has had an electoral system that preserves the integrity of the political process, encourages full participation and safeguards against corruption … the [Montana] Supreme Court's decision upholds that system and is truly a victory for all Montanans."
The Big Sky Judicial alluded to the state’s unique economic, historical and cultural aspect as justification not to uphold the federal court’s landmark decision. Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court wrote for the 5-2 majority opinion;
"With the infusion of unlimited corporate money in support of or opposition to a targeted candidate…the average citizen candidate would be unable to compete against the corporate-sponsored candidate, and Montana citizens, who for over 100 years have made their modest election contributions meaningfully count would be effectively shut out of the process."
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
As we approach the 2 year anniversary of the SCOTUS interpretation regarding free speech and its relationship toward placing limits on corporate spending for political purposes; it seems this may be a good time to review the impact on politics in America post Citizens United.
The ramifications and the immergence of the term Super PAC in the American political system vernacular cannot be understated. Above all Citizens United opened the door to a legal unlevel playing field toward the outcome of elections going forward. I found Justice Stevens’ conclusion in his dissenting opinion the most powerful argument regarding the court’s ruling.
“At bottom, the Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.”
The ruling in Montana virtual guarantees the Supreme Court of the United States will revisit the Citizens United decision, as a test case, granting corporations speech in the form of money.Conservative estimates, and liberal for that matter, agree on something;
PAC money should reach 1 billion dollars spent on both sides of the political spectrum during the 2012 Presidential Election.