by Jeremy Leaming
The Montana Supreme Court late last year pushed back against the U.S. Supreme Court’s highly unpopular and wobbly reasoned opinion in Citizens United v. FEC, when it upheld the state’s longtime regulation of corporate financing of elections.
Not surprisingly a cabal of corporations quickly asked the high court to overturn the Montana Supreme Court’s ruling in Western Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. State of Montana, which concluded the Roberts Court’s Citizens United opinion was not going to stand in the state’s way of ensuring that corporations do not overtake its elections.
Writing for the majority upholding the Montana Corrupt Practices Act, Chief Justice Mike McGrath stated “when in the last 99 years did Montana lose the power or interest sufficient to support the statute, if it ever did. If the statute has worked to preserve a degree of political and social autonomy is the State required to throw away its protections because shadowy backers of WTP [Western Tradition Partnership] seek to promote their interests? Does a state have to repeal or invalidate its murder prohibition if the homicide rate declines? We think not.”
Even the dissenting justice in the Montana case blasted the Supreme Court’s “corporate personhood” reasoning of Citizens United, writing, “Corporations are not persons. Human beings are persons, and it is an affront to the inviolable dignity of our species that courts have created a legal fiction which forces people – human beings – to share fundamental, natural rights with soulless creations of government.”
Then earlier this week came Jeffrey Toobin’s extensive piece for The New Yorker revealing the machinations of the Roberts Court to tear down the tradition of campaign finance regulation, and in the process provide yet another victory for corporate America. As Toobin writes Chief Justice John Roberts craftily took a case with a narrow question before the justices and expanded it allowing the Court’s right-wing bloc to overturn a long tradition of regulating corporate financing of campaigns. The outcome in Citizens United concluded that corporate entities have First Amendment rights to spend whatever they want on electioneering, and in the process ushered in the era of the “super PAC.”