February 19, 2012
Court Stays Montana Ruling on Citizens United
The Supreme Court on Friday stayed a Montana Supreme Court's ruling upholding the Montana state PAC requirement for corporate campaign expenditures, even in the face of Citizens United v. FEC. We posted on the Montana Supreme Court case, American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock, here. Recall that the Montana court distinguished Citizens United, saying that the Montana PAC requirement wasn't onerous, that Montana campaign spending regulations are far less onerous than federal regulations and did not deter the plaintiff-corporations' spending, and that Montana has a unique history of powerful corporations, controlled by outsiders, dominating state politics. In short, the Montana court said that the state PAC requirement satisfied strict scrutiny and thus met the high bar for restrictions on independent corporate spending set in Citizens United.
Justices Ginsburg and Breyer wrote this on the Court's order:
Montana's experience, and experience elsewhere since this Court's decision in [Citizens United], make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations "do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption." [Citizens United.] A petition for certiorari will give the Court an opportunity to consider whether, in light of the huge sums currently deployed by buy candidates' allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway. Because lower courts are bound to follow this Court's decisions until they are withdrawn or modified, however . . . I vote to grant the stay.
The decision on Friday doesn't mean necessarily that the Court will hear the case, although it makes it likely. The stay remains in effect if the Court grants cert.; if not, it goes away.
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