Mont. Lawsuit challenges corporate political ban
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A conservative group filed a lawsuit in Montana on Monday that seeks to overturn the state's ban on corporate political advocacy. The challenge from a group called the Western Tradition Partnership comes in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision paving the way for more corporate financing in elections. The Denver-based group said that it is joined by Champion Painting of Bozeman, a corporat ion that would l ike to get involved politically, in the lawsuit that was filed in state district court in Helena. Montana state law bans corporate political contributions or expenditures. The lawsuit only challenges the ban on expenditures, such as by running an independent television advertisement. It does not challenge the ban on direct contributions to candidates, the groups said. "We're only concerned with expenditures, we are not touching contributions," said Western Tradition Partnership spokesman Donny Ferguson. Ferguson said both his group, listed as a nonprofit corporation, and Champion Painting are not interested in contributing to candidates but would like to air advertisements. The owner of the corporation, Ken Champion, is described in the lawsuit as a politically active member of the Bozeman Tea Party. The attorney general's office said it could not comment until it received a copy of the lawsuit. But Attorney General Steve Bullock has been critical of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in January that opened the door for such lawsuits. He has said the ruling jeopardizes Montana's century- old law prohibiting businesses from freely spending from corporate coffers to influence elections. Opponents of corporate political f inancing say reversing Montana's law could lead to unlimited corporate spending on elections in Montana because current state laws limiting spending only apply to individuals. Th e We s t e r n Tr a d i t i o n Par tnership was or iginal l y launched in March by two wellknown Bozeman Republicans, former state Rep. John Sinrud and former U.S. Rep. Ron Marlenee. Ferguson says the two are no longer with the group.