Another victory for free speech

Among the opinions issued by the Supreme Court on Monday was the decision in American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock, which overturns a Montana law that barred corporations from participating in elections in the state:

The Supreme Court on Monday reaffirmed the right of corporations to make independent political expenditures, summarily overturning a 100-year-old Montana state law that barred corporations from such political activity.

The justices ruled in an unsigned opinion that Montana’s law was in conflict with the court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which shifted the campaign finance landscape, opening the door to the massive political expenditures that have been shaping this year’s presidential race. The decision was 5-4, split along ideological lines.

Despite the Citizens United decision, the Montana Supreme Court had refused to strike down the state’s ban on election spending by corporations. Its judges cited Montana’s history of “copper kings” who bribed legislators. Advocates of campaign finance reform had hoped that the current wave of election-related spending would help make their case for the need to reconsider Citizens United.

Still, it was considered highly unlikely that the court, in its current configuration, would reverse itself on such a recent ruling.

The court issued a summary reversal without waiting to hear oral arguments in the case.

Over at the Cato Institute, John Samples explains the decision:

MT Senate: Tester likely to gain a strong GOP contender

Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) could have a tough race on his hands in 2012 as he has largely backed President Barack Obama’s agenda, including ObamaCare. Sensing that vulnerability, Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) is taking steps to make a bid for against the state’s junior Senator:

Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) will announce Saturday he is challenging Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

“It’s happening Saturday,” said a knowledgeable Montana GOP political operative. “He’s running. There is a lot of support and enthusiasm back home, and Denny knows he can win.”

Rehberg’s status as a well-known at-large Congressman immediately pushes the matchup between the two Big Sky State politicians to among the most competitive Senate races in the country. Recent polling conducted for the Rehberg campaign bears that out.

An internal poll is also cited showing Rehberg with a small lead, though Schweitzer’s name being mentioned as a possible candidate seems sort of odd (I haven’t read anything where a Senate run was even discussed):

The Opinion Diagnostics survey of 400 likely Montana voters showed 49 percent backing Rehberg compared with 43 percent for Tester and 8 percent undecided. In a three-way matchup featuring Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer running as an independent, Rehberg led 44 percent to Tester’s 28 percent and Schweitzer’s 18 percent. Eleven percent were undecided.

Both the Rothenberg Political Report and Cook Political Report moved the race to “toss up.” Cook notes:

MT Governor: “Ron Paul Running 5-8% in MT”

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The Montana Constitution Party ditched their own candidate and placed Ron Paul on their ballot against his wishes, and it seems that decision will be what decides which major party the state of Montana is carried by.

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