Montana Shooting Sports Association Before the Montana Supreme Court

Montana Shooting Sports Association Before the Montana Supreme Court

Montana Shooting Sports Association
Montana Shooting Sports Association

Missoula, MT –-( On Wednesday, a case will be argued before the Montana Supreme Court in which MSSA is a plaintiff.

What’s it all about? Corporate spending in elections.

As a holdover from the days of the Copper Kings, Montana has had laws on the books to prohibit corporations from spending money to influence elections. A good idea, do you think? Well, not so fast.

MSSA was founded specifically to do the political work for gun owners and hunters in Montana. MSSA members pay dues to MSSA with the expectation that MSSA leaders will put those monies to good use in delivering good gun laws. However, MSSA is formed as a non-profit corporation (not an IRS tax-exempt – that’s something different) under Montana law.

Because MSSA is a corporation, Montana law does not allow us to spend one nickel of members dues to help elect pro-gun candidates to the Legislature. Thus, our very mission is compromised by the Montana corporate spending laws designed for a bygone era. The only money we can spend on elections is “clean” money gathered by donations – nickels and dimes you members take in at bake sales and send in for our Political Action Committee account.

What? You haven’t held any bake sales for MSSA you say. Right. Nobody does. So we do what we can to raise precious funds outside our corporate structure, including the fundraising event of the Potomac Rifle Match. People attending that match as a fundraising event make their checks payable to our PAC. We gradually accumulate money there, but it’s just a dribble.

Meanwhile, this issue was considered by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Citizens United v. FEC. In that case, the USSC held that people have a First Amendment right to spend their money to speak in elections even if their money is pooled together under the umbrella of a corporation.

With that principle clearly decided, we asked Montana officials if they would back off their position that MSSA is prohibited from spending member dues to elect candidates we favor.

They said no, because that would just allow the return of the Copper Kings influence over elections and Montana politics.

As an individual, and under current Montana law, you may exercise your First Amendment right to speak in elections by giving $25 to a preferred candidate, or by spending that $25 for a radio ad supporting your candidate. However, if you give that same $25 to MSSA in dues, expecting MSSA to spend it to elect a good candidate, Montana laws holdover from the Copper King era prevent MSSA from spending your money to influence an election.

So, MSSA joined as a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the State of Montana, asserting that the outdated Copper Kings prohibition that prevents MSSA from spending member dues to elect good candidates violated the principle established by the USSC in the Citizens United case – that it violated the First Amendment rights of MSSA members. The Montana District Court in Helena agreed with us. The State of Montana has appealed that District Court decision to the Montana Supreme Court. Oral arguments in that appeal will be heard by the MSC on Wednesday.

Here is a link to the newspaper story about this that has been circulating in Montana:

I just wanted you to hear my take on this event, as you are not likely to get this version from the general media.

Best wishes,

Gary Marbut, president
Montana Shooting Sports Association
author, Gun Laws of Montana

About Montana Shooting Sports Association:
MSSA is the primary political advocate for Montana gun owners. Visit: