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Montana Faces Challenge to Unconstitutional Election law

By Anthony McConnell

A Montana group is taking the lead in overturning that state’s anti-free speech election law.

Western Tradition Partnership and a small painting business have joined forces to bring Montana into compliance with the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which cited the Wyoming Liberty Group’s brief filed in the case. The court ruled that the FEC could not limit independent spending by corporations on elections.

WTP sent out this press release detailing their lawsuit:

BOZEMAN, MT – Citing a Supreme Court decision upholding Americans’ First Amendment rights, Western Tradition Partnership (WTP) and a local employer filed suit March 8 in Montana state court seeking to overturn state laws prohibiting political speech by employers.

WTP and Bozeman small business Champion Painting filed the suit in state district court in Helena Mar. 8.

With rising spending, taxes and regulation threatening his business, Champion Painting owner Ken Champion would like to use his business’ financial resources to exercise First Amendment rights. Montana state code (Title 13, Chapter 35) prohibits a corporation from “mak(ing) a contribution or an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political committee that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party” unless it gets permission from the state through the establishment of a segregated fund.

“Just as you do not lose your right to religious expression when you freely assemble as a church, you do not lose your right to political expression when you assemble with others under a corporation. Speaking out about issues of taxation and regulation that threaten employers are central to creating jobs and prosperity,” said Donny Ferguson, WTP Director of Media and Public Relations. “Our republic and democratic process are only healthy when all sides can speak freely. One side of the argument, namely government officials, should not have a legally-enforced monopoly on speech.”

The plaintiffs are represented by Margot Barg of Bozeman’s Wittich Law Firm. Attorney General Steve Bullock and Political Practices Commissioner Dennis Unsworth are named as defendants.

The suit comes after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld First Amendment protections in a suit brought by the non-profit group Citizens United. The group was threatened by the Federal Election Commission with prosecution for distributing a movie, funded with corporate contributions, about former First Lady and New York Senator Hillary Clinton. The federal government admitted in court that laws prohibiting corporate expenditures on political speech could be used to go so far as to ban books if they contain a mention of an individual who later became a candidate for public office.

Dual Sovereignty
Taxpayer Funded Lobbying in Wyoming

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