Challengers to Montana’s ban on corporate independent expenditures—recently upheld by the Montana Supreme Court—have asked Justice Anthony Kennedy to put a hold on the state court’s ruling and have urged the full Court to reverse it.
The political advocacy group, American Tradition Partnership, and two other corporate groups told Kennedy in their application for the stay:
“The Montana Supreme Court held the Ban constitutional despite the holding in Citizens United v. FEC, 130 S.Ct. 876 (2010), that `[n]o sufficient governmental interest justifies limits on the political speech of nonprofit or for-profit corporations.’ Immediate relief is needed to prevent irreparable harm to the Corporations’ First Amendment free-speech right. Montana’s primary elections are on June 5, making it vital that planning begin now for independent expenditures before the election.”
The stay application also asks Kennedy to refer the matter to the Court, have it treated as a petition for review and then summarily reverse the Montana Supreme Court.
“The lower court’s refusal to follow Citizens United is such an obvious, blatant disregard of its duty to follow this Court’s decisions that summary reversal is proper,” wrote the corporate groups’ counsel, James Bopp Jr. of The Bopp Law Firm in Terre Haute, Ind.
The Montana Supreme Court ruled in December that the state’s independent expenditure ban did not violate the First Amendment. The state high court held that Citizens United did not control because the state ban was justified by the state’s unique history of corporate corruption and influence in Montana politics. The ruling reversed a trial court decision striking down the ban based on Citizens United.
"Unequivocally, Citizens United means that corporate independent expenditure bans are invalid under the United States Constitution,” said Bopp in a statement. “The Montana Supreme Court has shirked its responsibility to follow that decisions and the United States Supreme Court should reverse their ruling.”
In addition to American Tradition Partnership, the application for a stay is also brought by the Montana Shooting Sports Association and Champion Painting Inc. The case is American Tradition Partnership v. Attorney General of Montana.