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How Will Western Tradition Partnership Affect Citizens United?

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

Once again, Montana is the wild, wild west: Last week, the Montana Supreme Court challenged the U.S. Supreme Court to a showdown.

In a 5-2 decision, the popularly-elected Montana Supreme Court held in Western Tradition Partnership v. Attorney General that the state had a compelling interest in continuing to enforce the state’s Corrupt Practices Act. Montana voters approved the Act, which limits/bans corporate campaign expenditures, in 1912.

One of the dissenters in the Montana decision thinks that the Nine will strike down the opinion without a second thought because the ruling contradicts the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, reports SCOTUSblog. (Lyle Denniston notes in that post that the Montana law was "nearly identical" to the federal law in Citizens United.)

Montana Chief Justice Mike McGrath, however, believes that Montana's history of political corruption, coupled with its current political and economic environment, give the state a "compelling interest" to enforce the corporate contribution ban, reports Slate.

We're not going to speculate on the fate of the Montana decision; we're more interested in whether this will embolden other courts to follow suit and uphold similar corporate contribution bans or limitations.

Campaign finance law is a hot topic in the courts right now, thanks to the first post-Citizens United election cycle.

Last month the Seventh and Ninth Circuits struck Wisconsin and Washington contribution limits, respectively, while an Alabama magistrate judge ruled that a state law banning PAC-to-PAC transfers violated the First Amendment. (Alabama announced this week that it is appealing the PAC-to-PAC ban ruling to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.)

As the barrage of PAC-funded campaign ads start consuming the airwaves in primary states, do you think more courts will follow Montana's lead and find a compelling interest to uphold their states' corporate contribution limits?

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