Lawsuit Filed Against Montana Governor Steve Bullock
In 2018, Montana Governor Steve Bullock used his executive power to restrict political speech. By requiring any group that he determined to be contrary to his political beliefs to respond to Executive Order 15-2018, Bullock effectively muzzled organizations pursuing state contracts, if they disagree with him.
At this point, we should explain a bit about “Dark Money”.
This is a term that refers to political spending by nonprofit organizations who are not required to disclose their donor lists.
In 2010, in the case of Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission (FEC), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that political spending is a form of free speech that’s protected under the First Amendment.
However, this seemed to have allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money to support their chosen political candidates.
In recent political maneuvers across America, the restriction of political speech hit main stream. Claims from both sides of the aisle, at all levels of government, began calling foul on this type of political spending, and multiple cases worked their way through the courts across America.
Union political spending was placed on notice with the “Janus v AFSCME ” decision. This was a case concerning the power of labor unions to collect fees from non-union members. The Supreme Court ruled for Janus when it clarified that mandatory fees are a form of coercion that violate the First Amendment. No longer will workers be forced to pay for political speech with which they disagree, just so they can keep their jobs.
The term “Dark Money” crossed into new territory once again, turning precedence on its heels. The Liberty Justice Center brought the case forward on behalf of the American people.
Now, Gov. Bullock has implemented his Executive Order under the guise of limiting the ability of non-profit organizations political speech within 60 days of an election.
Notwithstanding the rhetoric surrounding the EO, it was focused around businesses that were bidding for Montana Contracts. The EO placed a disclosure requirement of all contributors to any company placing bids with the Montana Procurement Department. As found in Janus, this is a direct violation of the First Amendment rights of the people.
On August 27th 2019, the Liberty Justice Center filed action in federal court in Helena Montana. Illinois Opportunity Project v. Bullock
Across the nation, public support for candidates and causes has resulted in lost jobs and contracts, property being destroyed, and even death threats. Requiring donors to disclose their support will unconstitutionally chill the free speech of organizations like IOP.
As Patrick Hughes, president and co-founder of the Liberty Justice Center, observed, “Forcing a person or group to disclose their contributions in order to be considered for work goes against our country’s founding principles as well as our current laws.
The case will now move forward in the courts here in Montana to protect the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the American people.
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