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Western Tradition - Decision

Western Tradition - Decision

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Published by: northdecoder on Jan 04, 2012
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,-rl08 The Court observes that allowing unlimited independent expenditures of corporate

money into the Montana political process would "drastically change campaigning by

shifting the emphasis to raising funds." Opinion,,-r 30. Direct political spending by

corporations could also "significantly affect the outcome of elections." Opinion;"] 32.

The Court explains that Montana has a small population and enjoys political campaigns

marked by person-to-person contact and a low cost of advertising compared to other

states. Opinion,"] 30. Thus, the infusion of unlimited corporate money in support of or

opposition to a targeted candidate would leave the average citizen candidate "unable to

compete against the corporate-sponsored candidate." Opinion,"] 38.

,-rl09 Furthermore, Montana voters feel they do not really "count" in the political

process unless they can make a material financial contribution; and they are concerned,

therefore, that special interests hold sway. Opinion,"] 31. The percentage of campaign

contributions from individual voters is much less in states that do not have restrictions on

corporate spending. Opinion,,-r 33. At present, the individual contribution limit for

Montana House, Senate, and District Court races is $160 and for Supreme Court elections

is $310. Opinion,"] 38. Thus, with the infusion of unlimited corporate money in support

of or opposition to a targeted candidate, "Montana citizens, who for over 100 years have

made their modest election contributions meaningfully count[,] would be effectively shut


out of the process." Opinion, ~ 38. "Clearly the impact of unlimited corporate donations

creates a dominating impact on the political process and inevitably minimizes the impact

of individual citizens." Opinion, ~ 41. The State "has an interest in encouraging the full

participation of the Montana electorate." Opinion, ~ 38; accord Opinion, ~ 41.

~110 While I understand the Court's desire to protect the ability of citizen candidates to

compete, and the ability of citizens to meaningfully participate and be heard in the

political process, this rationale has been rejected. "'[T]he concept that government may

restrict the speech of some elements of our society in order to enhance the relative voice

of others is wholly foreign to the First Amendment.'" Citizens United, 130 S. Ct. at 904

(brackets in original) (quoting Buckley, 424 U.S. at 48-49, 96 S. Ct. at 649). The Court's

reasoning is essentially a repackaged version of the antidistortion rationale, which the

Supreme Court answered as follows:

Austin sought to defend the antidistortion rationale as a means to prevent
corporations from obtaining "an unfair advantage in the political
marketplace" by using "resources amassed in the economic marketplace."
But Buckley rejected the premise that the Government has an interest "in
equalizing the relative ability of individuals and groups to influence the
outcome of elections." Buckley was specific in stating that the skyrocketing
cost of political campaigns could not sustain the governmental prohibition.
The First Amendment's protections do not depend on the speaker's
financial ability to engage in public discussion.

Citizens United, 130 S. Ct. at 904 (citations and some internal quotation marks omitted).

"The rule that political speech cannot be limited based on a speaker's wealth is a

necessary consequence of the premise that the First Amendment generally prohibits the

suppression of political speech based on the speaker's identity." Citizens United, 130

S. Ct. at 905. The Court's citizen-protection theory is invalid under Citizens United.


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