DOJ: News Release

Archived Press Releases Relating to Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act

Archived Press Releases Relating to Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act

On Dec. 30, the Montana Supreme Court sided with Attorney General Steve Bullock and re-affirmed Montana’s ban on direct corporate contributions in political elections. Bullock personally argued the state’s case for restoring the ban  and has played a national role in working to maintain the integrity of elections.

This page contains new and archived press releases, background information and more about this ongoing case.

Bullock Issues Statement on Petition Filed in U.S. Supreme Court by Group Seeking to Dismantle Montana’s Campaign Finance Laws

March 27, 2012

Attorney General Steve Bullock issued the following statement regarding the petition for certiorari filed in the U.S. Supreme Court today by American Tradition Partnership, seeking to reverse the Montana Supreme Court decision that upheld the 1912 Corrupt Practices Act.

“It is disappointing that a Washington, D.C.-based group believes that the highest court in our nation should discard Montana’s century-old law without even a day in court. We should expect better.

“In Montana, campaigning still means going door-to-door and meeting face-to-face with voters, which is democracy at its best. I look forward to continuing to defend our laws from this series of lawsuits, and protecting the way Montanans have, for a century, chosen to elect our public servants.”

Montana Supreme Court: Corporate Spending Ban Intact While Appeal Pends

February 9, 2012

In a decision released late Wednesday afternoon, the Montana Supreme Court struck down a request by the Washington, D.C.-based Western Tradition Partnership to temporarily suspended enforcement of the Corrupt Practices Act – the good government and clean elections measure passed by citizens’ initiative in 1912 banning corporate expenditures in political campaigns.

“I’m very pleased with this decision.  The Montana Supreme Court has preserved the integrity of our elections and the voice of the people in the political process,” Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock said.  “I’ll continue to defend our laws and make sure that people – not corporations – elect our leaders.”

In early 2011, Western Tradition Partnership challenged Montana’s century-old ban.  Attorney General Bullock personally defended the law in District Court and then before the Montana Supreme Court.  A Helena District Court judge initially struck down the 100-year-old ban. But Montana Supreme Court late last year sided with Bullock, reversed the lower court’s ruling and re-affirmed Montana’s ban on corporate expenditures in elections.

Western Tradition Partnership had asked Montana’s high court to “stay” their decision while the group appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.  That move was denied and Montana will continue to enforce the century-old ban on corporate spending in elections.

Mike Cooney, who served as Montana’s Secretary of State from 1989 to 2001 and oversaw the integrity of elections, noted that only two years ago, nearly half the states in the country banned corporate expenditures.  After the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United – which opened federal elections up to corporate spending and so-called Super PACs – Montana was the only state to fight to keep their state law on the books.

“I’m pleased the Montana Supreme Court examined our history of corporate dominance and corruption in the political sphere and recognized the importance of the Corrupt Practices Act,” Cooney said.  “Because of the dogged determination of our Attorney General, Montana is the only state in the country with an enforceable ban on corporate expenditures.”

In the federal Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, Bullock and his office wrote the amicus brief opposing unrestricted spending by corporations to influence the outcome of elections. Twenty-four other states signed on to the brief. Bullock was also invited to testify to the U.S. Senate on the matter.

Attorney General Bullock Issues Statement after Lead Plaintiff Appeals Corporate Spending Limit Case to U.S. Supreme Court

January 5, 2012

In response to American Tradition Partnership’s decision to appeal, Attorney General Steve Bullock said he would be honored to defend Montana’s ban on corporate contributions to candidates before the U.S. Supreme Court. Bullock successfully argued to retain Montana’s 1912 law before the state’s Supreme Court in November 2011.

“In Montana, no one is excluded from our elections. Even out-of-state corporate executives can participate, either by directly contributing to a candidate or a committee, or by joining with like-minded people to form a PAC.

“If they want to spend – or ‘speak’ – in our elections, all we require is that they use their own money, not that of their stockholders, and that they disclose who they are, by listing their address and occupation when they contribute.

“It will be my honor to continue to defend Montana’s century-old law and the integrity of our state and local elections.”

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Attorney General Bullock Issues Statement after Montana Supreme Court Upholds Ban on Direct Corporate Political Donations

December 30, 2011

Attorney General Steve Bullock issued the following statement on Friday, Dec. 30, in response to a 5-2 Montana Supreme Court decision re-affirming Montana’s ban on direct corporate contributions in political elections.

Bullock had personally argued the case before the high court.

“For over 100 years, Montana has had an electoral system that preserves the integrity of the political process, encourages full participation, and safeguards against corruption. The Supreme Court’s decision upholds that system and is truly a victory for all Montanans.

“We’re very pleased with today’s decision which is based on solid constitutional analysis, common sense and a clear understanding of both Montana’s history and our current system of electing our state’s leaders.

“The Citizens United decision dealt with federal laws and elections – like those contests for President and Congress. But the vast majority of elections are held at the state or local level and this is the first case I am aware of that examines state laws and elections.

“It was an honor to argue this case and to defend Montana’s century-old campaign laws before the state’s highest court.”

The decision reversed a lower court decision which had held that Montana’s 1912 citizen-passed initiative banning direct corporate donations to political elections violated the U.S. Constitution.

Bullock appealed, taking the case to the Montana Supreme Court.

Western Tradition Partnership, now known as American Tradition Partnership, along with Champion Painting Inc., of Bozeman, and the Montana Shooting Sports Association, of Missoula, challenged Montana’s ban after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that corporations have the right of “political speech” and cannot be limited in the amount of money they spend on elections.

Chief Justice Mike McGrath wrote the opinion of the majority, joined by Justices Brian Morris, Patricia Cotter, Michael Wheat and Jim Rice.

Justices James Nelson and Beth Baker dissented.

Copies of the majority and dissenting opinions are available here on the Montana Supreme Court website.

This is the latest chapter in Bullock’s efforts to insure the integrity of elections. In the federal Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission U.S. Supreme Court case, Bullock and his office wrote the amicus brief opposing unrestricted spending by corporations to influence the outcome of elections. Twenty-four other states signed on to the brief. Bullock was also invited to testify to the U.S. Senate on the matter.

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