Reporting from Washington — The Supreme Court served notice Friday that it would not let states or state judges casually defy its much-disputed ruling in the Citizens United case that gave corporations a right to spend freely on election campaigns.
The justices put on hold enforcement of a Montana election law. But the case could force the high court to reconsider the corporate spending issue if its liberal justices insist on doing so.
On Dec. 30, Montana's high court said it was refusing to follow Citizens United as a binding precedent. Instead, the state justices affirmed Montana's 100-year-old anti-corruption law that forbids corporations from giving to candidates or spending to elect them. Adopted by its voters, it arose during the era of the "Copper Kings" who, as Mark Twain once put it, "bought legislatures and judges as other men buy food and raiment."
But the 5-4 majority in the Citizens United case said the 1st Amendment protects independent political spending by corporations and unions. One Montana justice described as "utter nonsense" the Supreme Court's view that lavish spending by corporations did not corrupt candidates or the election process.