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Montana defies SuperPAC: Citizens United

Updated on January 17, 2012

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.


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    • gjfalcone profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Gilbert, Arizona

      Over time I've grown exceedingly appreciative of dissenting opinions. This one in particular. Thanks for weighing in Cred2.

    • Credence2 profile image


      6 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      gjfjlcone, Montana is defined by its independence. That has to be the most wrong headed court decision since Plessy v Ferguson, over a century ago. As Justice Stevens had said, common sense would make it evident to everyone that avoiding corruption to the political process automatically means the exclusion of corporate interests.

      Most stimulating article, thanks, Cred2

    • gjfalcone profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Gilbert, Arizona


      I can't seem to accept this basic fact regarding the direction of our nation. How we,the People,could have allowed 545 employees,to dictate anti-democratic policy which governs 311 million Employers?

      Thank you for your comments as always my phdast friend .

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Excellent Hub, Excellent argument. Good for Montana! Too bad more states, groups, and individuals didn't protest, and protest, and keep protesting.

      What the Supreme Court passed was a slap in the face of all Americans, an insult to our intelligence, and the grossest and twisted mis-reading of the intent of the law, and a complete misuse of language.

      On no level, through no interpretation, not in any way - shape - or form, is a massive, wealthy corporoation equivalent to a person. They have butchered the intended meaning of "free speec."

      We should be afraid of the Super Pacs - they are very dangerous. We should raise hell until the Supreme Court reconsiders and reverses its position. Thank you for raising hell.

    • gjfalcone profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Gilbert, Arizona


      The short answer is, I would refer you to the comments I have made to Michele.Having said that...I would add, the number of people whom choose to stand up can never be enough. The voice of the people is expressed through the power in their numbers...and through venues as such.

      Thank you for your comments, and as always, I look forward to future conversations regarding the direction of this nation.

    • gjfalcone profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Gilbert, Arizona


      Thank you for your kind words and comments. I'm looking forward to future conversations with respect to your political views.

    • pmccray profile image


      6 years ago from Utah

      Finally, I'm not by myself. This horrific bill was passed under cover of the robes of our Supreme court justices who all have their hands in the corporate cookie jar. Michele asks a very poignant question why don't we stand up? I've been trying to sound the alarm on this very site, and nary a peep from fellow hubbers.

      Either we're too lazy or don't understand the ramifications of a corporate run government. You think things are bad now . . in the immortal words of Betty Davis, we're in for a bumpy ride.

      A word of caution; the election of a "business" man for president is just the corporate puppet that is needed to head this form of government.

      Thank you for sharing, voted up, marked useful, awesome and interesting

    • LauraD093 profile image

      Laura Tykarski 

      6 years ago from Pittsburgh PA

      Now I see why my article caught your eye Mr gjfalcone-looks like we may become hub-buddies and political allies ty very well written article as well

    • gjfalcone profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Gilbert, Arizona

      Michele Travis,

      I appreciate your comments as well as find them quite telling. It is indeed as Justice John Paul Stevens concluded in his disenting opinion..."a rejection of the common sense of the American people..."

      Having said that, certain elements of today's political atmosphere cannot be denied. Most relevant is the fact: 94% of the time, the candidate for public office, that raises the most money wins. That is a stunning commentary in conjuction with the Citizens United decision.

      With respect to your comment "why don't Americans stand up and let the politicians know we are the ones who control them?"

      I would suggest based on the recent and ongoing events in Wisconsin, Ohio, Maine and Michigan, to name but a few, the people are highly motivated; and if I may predict, it will be reflected in voter turnout in November 2012.

      As you are a resident of the state of Ohio, subject to Governor Kasich authority, I don't have to remind you of the ramifications of SB5. It was powerful with respect to the power of the people to overturn authority of those in power.

      In closing if I may suggest one thing further...Promote the Vote Ms. Travis...and as always, I look forward to our next conversation...gjf

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 

      6 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      I have been thinking about this for a while, and have been wondering why don't Americans stand up and let the politicians know we are the ones who control them? We may not have a lot of money, but we do vote. We vote, We need to vote and let them know we vote. Call your senetor or congressman or woman and let them know you will vote. If you don't vote then our freedoms will become less, and less. We need to get our power back and the only way to do so, is get up and vote

    • gjfalcone profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Gilbert, Arizona

      Thanks for checking in Mr. Schneider,

      I believe that is the fight that must be fought. I count the great State of Montana as a yea vote for such a repeal...37 more to go.

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 

      6 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Great Hub GJF. Unfortunately I believe this court is in the pockets of Corporate America especially the Koch brothers. They will strike down this Montana ruling and any other. It is despicable. Citizens United has completely corrupted a political system that was halfway there already. I believe we need a Constitutional amendment to reverse this ruling and give us effective campaign finance control.


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