Supreme Court Strikes Down Montana Law, Reaffirms Citizens United

Article excerpt

In the case American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed its 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision in a 5-4 ruling that struck down a Montana state law banning independent expenditures on behalf of political candidates by corporations.

Montana law had stated that a "corporation may not make ... an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political committee that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party." The court majority ruled, "In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, this Court struck down a similar federal law, holding that 'political speech does not lose First Amendment protection simply because its source is a corporation.'"

Steven Breyer's dissent argued that states should be able to ban corporate speech: "Montana's experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the Court's decision in Citizens United, casts grave doubt on the Court's supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so."

The political Left has campaigned against the Citizens United decision for two years under the slogan that "corporations are not people." That's true; corporations and the SuperPacs created as a result of Citizens United are associations of people. And the First Amendment protects this right of the people to assemble and associate. The right to band together for a political cause and spend money for that cause was so well-entrenched in the American constitutional system by the 1830s that Alexis de Tocqueville noted in his Democracy in America, "In no country in the world has the principle of association been more successfully used or applied to a greater multitude of objects than in America . …