A day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government may not ban political spending by corporations or unions in candidate elections, officials across America were rushing to cope with the fallout on Friday, as laws in 24 states were directly or indirectly called into question by the ruling.
The states that explicitly prohibit independent expenditures by unions and corporations will be most affected by the ruling. However, the decision has consequences for all states, since they are now effectively prohibited from adopting restrictions on corporate and union spending on political campaigns.
For now, Thursday's 5-4 decision does not overturn all the state laws in question, but it is only a matter of time, experts said, before the laws will be challenged in the courts or repealed by state legislatures. Since the state laws are vulnerable it is unlikely officials will continue enforcing them, experts said.
Montana is one of the states that will probably be affected. It has one of the nation's oldest campaign finance laws, approved by voters in 1912 after a copper baron, William A. Clark of Butte, bribed members of the state Legislature to get a U.S. Senate seat.
Chris Gallus, a former lobbyist and a lawyer who represents business interests in Montana, said Friday that his clients would most likely challenge the statute if it was not stricken.
States that can expect to see the biggest and most sudden influx of money are those — like Florida and Ohio — where it is relatively expensive to run campaigns and where races are competitive, said Ray La Raja, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He predicted corporate spending would increase in states where control of state governments hangs in the balance.
The ruling left many state lawmakers frustrated and uncertain how to proceed.
"It's absolutely outrageous, and we've got to find a way to deal with it," said Michael Gronstal, the Senate majority leader in Iowa, where lawmakers were exploring how they might keep at least some of the restrictions on political expenditures in the current state law.
The 24 states with laws that were directly or indirectly called into question by the ruling are Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.