Montana Initiative, Directing Montana Legislators to Work for a Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United, Struck Down

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.


Montana Initiative, Directing Montana Legislators to Work for a Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United, Struck Down — 6 Comments

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  3. While I don’t support this particular initiative (I think the Supreme Court ruled correctly to protect the rights of corporations), I think that citizens should have some mechanism to propose amendments to the US Constitution. Perhaps a state constitution could authorize a state convention, either by petition, or automatically every so many years, whereby citizen delegates could meet and propose amendments to the US Constitution, which, if approved, would have the same legal effect as if a state legislature had submitted an amendment. Remember during the initial ratification of the US Constitution, states held conventions that submitted proposed amendments that became the Bill of Rights.

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