by liberal japonicus
While there is no intention to turn this into a legal blog, questions of law are particularly ripe fruit for blog discussion because of the way they both channel and expand the discussion. Channel by giving some definitive context and expand by letting folks point out how these things can impact a lot of stuff that happens outside the court.
Perhaps it is just synchronicity, but the recent Montana Supreme Court ruling that relates to Citizen's United provides an opportunity for two discussion posts this week (but fear not, a friday open thread will appear as well) and Lithwick's piece on the decision is a good start.
Which brings us to the Montana Supreme Court, which more or less announced last week that it would similarly just ignore Justice Kennedy’s pronouncements about money and corruption. The Montana court more or less announced it would uphold that state’s corporate spending ban because they know a lot more about political corruption than Anthony Kennedy does. The Montana law was enacted in 1912 and provides that “a corporation may not make a contribution or an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political committee that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party." After the Supreme Court handed down theCitizens United decision in 2010, many similar state laws were struck down by the courts or repealed, and a lower court in Montana agreed that the Montana ban was unconstitutional as well, finding that “Citizens United is unequivocal: the government may not prohibit independent and indirect corporate expenditures on political speech.”
But by a 5-2 margin, Montana’s high court determined that the state law survived “strict scrutiny” because Montana’s unique context and history justified the ban in ways not contemplated by Citizens United. In his majority opinion, Chief Justice Mike McGrath dove deep into that history, ranging back over the “tumultuous years … marked by rough contests for political and economic domination primarily in the mining center of Butte, between mining and industrial enterprises controlled by foreign trusts or corporations.” Noting that, back in the last Gilded Age, Montana's wealthy "Copper Kings" bought judges and senators, picked the location of the capital, and owned the media, McGrath pointed to Montana’s vast size, sparse population, low-cost elections, and long history of having its resources plundered by foreign corporate interests to emphasize that the state has a compelling interest in maintaining its ban.
Our prefecture as a sister 'state' with Montana and our university has had a long standing exchange with the UM system, In fact, when I first came here, a huge number of my inital conversations followed this pattern
Average Japanese person: Where are you from?
Average me: The US
AJP: Montana? [followed by long explanation about a relative going to Montana, or hosting a Montana visitor]
So I have a truckload of random Montana factoids, but it is good to see how they can come together and strike a blow for common sense even if it is likely to get struck down by the Supreme Court.