Less than a day after a lower court struck down a Montana state law that places a cap on campaign contributions by groups and individuals, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals intervened, restoring the state laws for the time being.
Montana is ground zero for the nation’s legal battle over “Citizens United,” a controversial Supreme Court decision that classifies campaign contributions as free speech and lets anonymous donors spend unlimited money trying to influence U.S. elections. In Montana, the ruling conflicted with numerous state laws, which conservatives have been picking off one by one ever since.
The most recent to fall was Montana’s cap on total campaign contributions, struck down a week ago by U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell. That 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, however, put that decision on hold Tuesday night, asking the judge for more information on his reasoning while they consider an appeal.
Since the passage of “Citizens United,” Montana Democrats have found themselves at the forefront of a push to amend state constitutions — and eventually the U.S. constitution — to limit or completely prohibit corporate spending on elections. Nationally, Democrats in Congress and President Barack Obama attempted to pass a law called The Disclose Act, which would require campaign advertising to identify who purchased it. However, a unified Republican front in the Senate, along with several dozen House Democrats who crossed over, ensured that it never passed.
“The United States Supreme Court has just told the American people that the facts don’t matter when it comes to protecting Montana and the country from corruption of corporate money in our democracy,” Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) said in June, after the Supreme Court cited “Citizens United” in striking down the state’s corrupt practices law. “The United States Supreme Court blocked our law because they said corporations are people — I’ll believe that when Texas executes one.”
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