Supreme Court to Weigh Challenge to Campaign Finance Ruling on June 14

Posted May 30, 2012 at 11:47am

The Supreme Court will decide in a private conference on June 14 whether to take up a constitutional challenge to a Montana law that restricts corporate political spending.

The Montana case, known as American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock, has been closely watched as a bellwether of the high court’s willingness to revisit its landmark 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which deregulated corporate and union political spending.

At issue is whether the Montana law banning corporate spending in elections is unconstitutional. The state argues that Montana faces a special risk of corruption and should be permitted to enforce its longtime ban, notwithstanding the 2010 Citizens United ruling.

In December, the state Supreme Court agreed, rejecting a constitutional challenge brought by a trio of Montana corporations which argued that the ban flies in the face of Citizens United. Those challengers asked the Supreme Court to reverse the state Supreme Court ruling. That Montana ruling is on hold, thanks to a stay the high court imposed in February.

The Supreme Court’s move to schedule a private conference for June 14, posted on its website and first reported by SCOTUSblog, simply means the high court has moved one step closer to making a decision on whether to take up the case for a full briefing and argument. Court watchers expect the justices to signal how they will proceed on or around June 18.

The Supreme Court essentially has three options. It could let the Montana Supreme Court ruling stand, an unlikely outcome given that this could invite other states to ban corporate political spending. Justices could also overturn the state Supreme Court ruling summarily and without argument, as those bringing the constitutional challenge have requested.

Finally, the high court could take up the case for full argument and briefing, as campaign finance reform advocates on and off Capitol Hill have requested in friend-of-the-court briefs. Opponents of the Citizens United ruling see the Montana challenge as an opportunity for the high court to revisit its decision, which has drastically altered elections since 2010.