In the wake of Citizens United, those jurisdictions that had previously imposed campaign spending bans on corporations have had to rethink their state or local laws.
Not the so-called “Last Best Place.” The Montana Attorney General is defending that state’s expenditure ban. According to AG Steve Bullock, the state’s 1912 law remains constitutional. He is arguing that Montana has a different experience with corporate spending, and can show that spending corrupts politicians.
Now, I have said publicly a couple of times that I don’t think Citizens United necessarily controls in jurisdictions where history and experience indicate certain industries or kinds of corporations pose distinctive threats in politics. Citizens United does require that those jurisdictions have to show that a BAN on independent spending is a tailored response to a genuine threat, and that’s a pretty difficult argument to make.
What Montana is attempting to argue is that all corporations pose this threat. Not explicitly – Bullock acknowledges that the state’s corporate expenditure ban comes out of a history of political struggles involving mining companies. But the litigants in the present case involve a small painting business and a conservative advocacy group – both, as corporations, prohibited from making expenditures in Montana.
What’s the justification for that?