On December 20, a Montana lower state court struck down an initiative passed in 2012 that orders Montana legislators to work for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v Federal Election Commission. The recent Montana case is Rickert v McCulloch, Lewis and Clark County, cdv-2012-1003.
The initiative said, in part, “Montana’s congressional delegation is charged with proposing a joint resolution offering an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that accomplishes the following: (a) overturns the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v FEC; (b) establishes that corporations are not human beings with constitutional rights; (c) establishes that campaign contributions or expenditures by corporations, whether to candidates or ballot issues, may be prohibited by a political body at any level of government; and (d) accomplishes the goals of Montanans in achieving a level playing field in election spending.”
The recent decision depends on a 1984 Montana Supreme Court opinion, State ex rel Harper v Waltermire, which struck down an initiative that ordered Montana legislators to work for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The recent decision upholds the part of the initiative that says that the voters find that “unlimited corporate donations creates a dominating impact on the Montana political process and inevitably minimizes the impact of individual Montana citizens.” However, it should be noted that Citizens United v FEC did not hold that corporations may make contributions to candidates; it said they can make independent expenditures.