The Billings, MT-based Tea Party group “Montana Shrugged” is filing suit against Montana Political Practices Commissioner Dennis Unsworth. A full press release is included below. Commissioner Unsworth said he won’t comment on the issue as it is now headed to court. Documents are available at the James Madison Center for Free Speech’s website.
The suit stems apparently from this complaint filed with the commissioner.
Of course, the attacks on the free speech rights will be ignored by cries of “corporate influence” here in Montana.
I think of it this way: it costs The Denver Post a million dollars a day just to open their doors. How much does it cost The Great Falls Tribune and the Billings Gazette (corporations) just to open their doors everyday? What about the billions spent by Hollywood film producers pushing a political agenda like Avatar Director James Cameron? Their speech is rightly unregulated and protected, so why should Eric and Jennifer Olsen of Billings be told to “register with the proper authorities” and face fines over their speech?
The Copper Kings were stuffing cash into the pockets of legislators. That is still illegal after Citizens United.
PRESS RELEASE FROM JAMES MADISON CENTER FOR FREE SPEECH
A father and daughter concerned with runaway government spending started a group called Montana Shrugged in 2009. It organizes, educates, and activates people to promote the understanding and execution of the United States Constitution. Such activities, however, are heavily regulated in Montana and are banned if done by corporations.
Montana law bans any corporation from spending money to influence an election. The Supreme Court unequivocally declared in its recent Citizens United decision that states have no legitimate interest in such prohibitions. Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock, a defendant in this case, said “corporations aren’t censored here.” We agree, they cannot speak at all.
Montana law also requires any corporation “incidentally” spending money to influence elections to comply with political committee burdens such as appointing a treasurer, establishing a separate bank account, and registering and filing regular reports with the Commissioner of Political Practices. Citizens United held that these burdens also violate free speech rights.
Because these regulations infringe on its right to free speech under the Constitution, Montana Shrugged filed suit today in federal court.
James Bopp, Jr., counsel for Montana Shrugged, explained that “these heavy burdens are exactly the types of burdens the Supreme Court has held do not apply to groups who occasionally mention candidates while rallying for issues of concern to them.”