Robin Bravender

January 5, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to wade into the hot-button debate over corporate cash in politics again, just in time for the 2012 election season.

The conservative group American Tradition Partnership announced plans Thursday to appeal a Montana Supreme Court ruling that upheld a state law banning corporations from spending to directly support or oppose candidates.

Campaign finance experts predict that the high court will almost certainly address the ruling, since it’s seen as a direct challenge to its 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision that allowed corporations, unions and other special interests to use their funds to make or place political ads that support or oppose political candidates.

Proponents of the Citizens United decision said they expect the high court to swiftly strike down the Montana law. The court could issue a summary reversal of the Montana court ruling without hearing arguments on the case.

“We, and impartial legal scholars, are confident these unbiased courts will uphold the First Amendment rights of Montanans to speak freely about powerholders,” American Tradition Partnership Executive Director Donald Ferguson said Thursday in a statement.

At least one justice on the Montana court isn’t expecting the state law to stand.

“Citizens United is the law of the land, and this Court is duty-bound to follow it,” said Montana Supreme Court Justice James Nelson, one of the two dissenting judges in the 5-2 ruling issued Dec. 30. “When this case is appealed to the Supreme Court, as I expect it will be, a summary reversal on the merits would not surprise me in the least,” he wrote.

But campaign finance reform advocates see opportunity in reopening the contentious debate at the federal level.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0112/71133.html#ixzz1ihN6stxD