What the judges had to say

2011-12-30T18:11:00Z 2012-01-04T18:30:05Z What the judges had to say The Billings Gazette
December 30, 2011 6:11 pm

HELENA -- Here are some quotations from parts of the majority ruling and the dissents in the decision by the Montana Supreme Court on Friday in a case involving Montana's ban on corporate political spending on behalf or against political candidates:

" ... the Montana law at issue in this case cannot be understood outside the context of the time and place in was enacted, during the early 20th century. (Montana became a state in 1889.) Those tumultuous years were marked by rough contests for political and economic domination primarily in the mining center of Butte, between mining and industrial enterprises controlled by foreign trusts or corporations. These disputes had profound long-term impacts on the entire state, including issues regarding the judiciary, the location of the state Capitol, the procedure for election of U.S. senators, and the ownership and control of virtually all media outlets in the state."

-- Chief Justice Mike McGrath, writing for the majority.


"Bribery of public officials and unlimited campaign spending by the mining interests were commonplace and well known to the public. Referring to (Copper King) W.A. Clark, but describing the general state of affairs in Montana, Mark Twain wrote in 1907 that Clark 'is said to have bought legislatures and judges as other men buy food and raiment. By his example he has so excused and so sweetened corruption that in Montana it no longer has an offensive smell.' "

-- McGrath, writing for the majority

"The question then, is when in the last 99 years did Montana lose the power or interest sufficient to support the statute, if it ever did. If the statute has worked to preserve a degree of political and social autonomy is the state required to throw away its protections because the shadowy backers of WTP (Western Tradition Partnership) seek to promote their interests? Does a state have to repeal or invalidate its murder prohibition if the homicide rate declines? We think not."

-- McGrath, writing for the majority

"Unquestionably, Montana has its own unique history. No doubt Montana also has compelling interests in preserving the integrity of its electoral process and in encouraging the full participation of its electorate. And Montana may indeed be more vulnerable than other states to corporate domination of the political process. But the notion argued by the attorney general and adopted by this court -- that these characteristics entitle Montana to a special 'no peeing' zone in the First Amendment swimming pool -- is simply untenable under Citizens United."

-- Justice James Nelson, in dissent

"I respectfully dissent from the court's decision to uphold the statute in its entirety. I would instead uphold only those provisions necessary to ensure independent corporate expenditures properly are reported and full disclosure is made to inform citizens and shareholders of the corporation's election-related spending."

-- Justice Beth Baker in dissent

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