FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, March 8, 2010
WTP files suit to protect free speech in Montana
Citizens’ lobby and small businessman seek to overturn political speech ban
BOZEMAN, MT – Citing a Supreme Court decision upholding Americans’ First Amendment rights, Western Tradition Partnership (WTP) and a local employer filed suit Friday in Montana state court seeking to overturn state laws prohibiting political speech by employers.
WTP and Bozeman small business Champion Painting filed the suit in state district court in Helena Mar. 5.
With rising spending, taxes and regulation threatening his business, Champion Painting owner Ken Champion would like to use his business’ financial resources to exercise First Amendment rights. Montana state code (Title 13, Chapter 35) prohibits a corporation from “mak(ing) a contribution or an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political committee that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party” unless it gets permission from the state through the establishment of a segregated fund.
“Just as you do not lose your right to religious expression when you freely assemble as a church, you do not lose your right to political expression when you assemble with others under a corporation. Speaking out about issues of taxation and regulation that threaten employers are central to creating jobs and prosperity,” said Donny Ferguson, WTP Director of Media and Public Relations. “Our republic and democratic process are only healthy when all sides can speak freely. One side of the argument, namely government officials, should not have a legally-enforced monopoly on speech.”
The plaintiffs are represented by Margot Barg of Bozeman’s Wittich Law Firm. Attorney General Steve Bullock and Political Practices Commissioner Dennis Unsworth are named as defendants.
The suit comes after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld First Amendment protections in a suit brought by the non-profit group Citizens United. The group was threatened by the Federal Election Commission with prosecution for distributing a movie, funded with corporate contributions, about former First Lady and New York Senator Hillary Clinton. The federal government admitted in court that laws prohibiting corporate expenditures on political speech could be used to go so far as to ban books if they contain a mention of an individual who later became a candidate for public office.
WTP is a fast-growing, grassroots-supported non-profit organization advocating rational, responsible natural resource development and land use policy. For more information on WTP’s efforts to fight for free speech, go to http://www.westerntradition.org/freespeech/
# # #
WTP also chalked up a victory for free speech in WTP, et al, vs. City of Longmont in Colorado in late 2009. So-called “progressives” had taken a majority on that City Council and ensconced themselves in a campaign finance scheme that WTP labeled an “incumbency protection act” — which a Federal judge promptly threw out on an injunction. Longmont later paid WTP nearly $70,000 in legal fees.
Click here and here for press stories covering the lawsuit and background on the long battle over property rights in Longmont, and here for WTP’s press release on the action. WTP was instrumental in mobilizing residents on the issues, and the anti-business majority was overthrown (story “Conservative Wipeout” here), while turnout swamped two countywide “green” tax boondoggles, whose defeat shocked Boulder liberals.