WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down Montana's century-old limits on corporate political spending, putting an end to the state's resistance to Citizens United and effectively expanding that controversial ruling to the state and local elections.
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, decided in January 2010, struck down federal limits on campaign spending by corporations and unions as violations of the First Amendment. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing on behalf of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, reached the bold conclusion that "independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption," and therefore "[n]o sufficient governmental interest justifies limits on the political speech of nonprofit or for-profit corporations."
In December 2011, the Montana Supreme Court disagreed. It found that the state's Gilded Age history of business-driven corruption was sufficient to justify the state's Corrupt Practices Act. Passed by voter referendum in 1912, the law decrees that a "corporation may not make ... an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political party that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party."
By summarily reversing the case, American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock, the justices refused to reconcile their sweeping statement of free speech principles in Citizens United with the real-world facts -- from Montana's history to today's super PACs -- put forward by Montana and its supporters to demonstrate that independent expenditures do, indeed, corrupt or create the appearance of corruption. Instead, the 5-4 majority, in an unsigned opinion, wrote that "[t]here can be no serious doubt" that Citizens United applies to Montana's law.
"Montana's arguments in support of the judgment below either were already rejected in Citizens United, or fail to meaningfully distinguish that case," the majority wrote.
Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, wrote to dissent from the summary reversal. "Montana's experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the Court's decision in Citizens United, casts grave doubt on the Court's supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so," Breyer wrote. "Were the matter up to me, I would vote to grant the petition for certiorari in order to reconsider Citizens United or, at least, its application in this case."
CORRECTION: A previous version of this post incorrectly referred to Montana as "The Granite State," which is in fact New Hampshire.
Ed Conard of Mitt Romney's private equity firm Bain Capital is one of 12 donors who've given at least $1 million to the super PAC Restore Our Future, which supports Romney's bid for the White House. Due to the obliteration of campaign finance law by the Supreme Court, donors can give unlimited amounts to the super PAC. Meet Romney's dozen.
Blake Roney, Nu Skin (Personal Care Products). Gave $1 million as part of a shell corporation.
Steven Lund, Nu Skin. Gave $1 million as part of a shell corporation.
Robert Mercer, left, Renaissance Technologies (Financial)
John Paulson, Paulson & Co. (Financial)
Julian Robertson, Tiger Management (Hedge Fund)
Paul Singer, right, of Elliot Management (Hedge Fund)
Melaleuca and owner Frank VanderSloot (Personal Care)
Paul & Sandra Edgerley
Paul & Sandra Edgerley, Bain Capital
Bob Perry, Perry Homes (Home Builder)
Francis Rooney, Rooney Holdings (Financial)
Oxbow Corp. and William Koch
Oxbow Corp. and owner William Koch (Energy & Technology)