Charles S. Johnson

Billing Gazette

September 18, 2011

HELENA — The state Supreme Court will hear a case Wednesday that could have major impacts on future elections as it decides whether to retain or toss out Montana’s century-old ban on direct corporate spending for or against political candidates.

At issue is the state’s appeal of a 2010 decision by District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock of Helena. Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s narrow 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission earlier last year, Sherlock declared the 1912 Montana law unconstitutional.

The Citizens United ruling “allowed corporations and unions to use their general treasuries to pay for political advertisements that expressly call for the election or defeat of a candidate, also known as independent expenditures,” said the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan, nonprofit Washington, D.C., group that tracks campaign finance matters.