William Clark, a copper king from our great state, bought a Senate seat in 1899. He famously said, “I never met a man who wasn’t for sale.”
Thereafter, we, the people of Montana, enacted a law limiting political spending by corporations because we, the people of Montana, didn’t want wealthy corporations buying our democracy. One hundred years later, we haven’t changed our minds.
In late June, the United States Supreme Court summarily reversed the Montana Supreme Court, saying that the century-old, collective will of the citizens of Montana is at odds with their 2010 Citizens United decision wherein the high court declared that corporations have the same rights as people and unlimited campaign spending equates to constitutionally protected free speech. In other words, the U.S. Supreme Court just sold our state to the highest bidder.
Montana legislators, on both sides of the aisle, are what we call citizen legislators. We are not professional politicians. Individual Montanans, like school teachers, farmers, students, sportsmen, and stay-at-home moms and dads can only donate $160 for our elections. This is because Montanans wanted individuals like school teachers, farmers, students, sportsmen, and stay-at-home moms and dads to decide how their own state was run.
Whether in Choteau, Billings or Missoula, most elections for the Montana Legislature cost between $4,000-$6,000. Those days are over. With this decision, the floodgates are wide open for insurance companies, oil companies, tobacco companies, foreign companies and any other super PAC to dump tens of thousands of dollars into our local elections and thereby silence any citizen legislator, who instead of becoming a puppet to the special interests of big, out-of-state corporations, fight for the future generations of all Montanans.
In Montana we’ve always known we are blessed with rich resources, and now five justices in Washington, D.C., just made us one of the cheapest dates in the country. Please pay attention, Montanans, as this is not about Republicans versus Democrats, but about the individual voices of everyday Montanans being drowned by a corporate take-over.
It’s time to fight back. Let’s reclaim our democracy by passing a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United. Here in Montana, over 30,000 Montana voters signed the petition to place this issue on the ballot in November. Initiative 166, will make it Montana state policy that corporations are not entitled to constitutional rights because they are not human beings—and– that money is property, not constitutionally protected free speech. The measure also charges our elected officials, including our Congressional delegation, to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to overturn Citizens United.
But before we have the chance to vote FOR I-166 in November, we have one more hurdle to cross. The corporate interests have launched an effort to block Montana voters from even voting on this citizens’ initiative, by filing a lawsuit with the Montana Supreme Court to throw I-166 off of the ballot. Clearly, the big-monied interests think they should be allowed to buy our elections and don’t think the people of Montana should have a voice in this matter. This lawsuit is nothing more than corporate hired guns trying to deny the people of Montana a chance to vote on a citizen initiative, one that clearly states corporations aren’t people and money is not speech.
Stand up, my fellow Montanans, stand up – we are not alone. Twenty two states joined Attorney General Steve Bullock in his valiant defense of Montana democracy before the U.S. Supreme Court. Let’s send the message back to Washington, D.C., that in Montana, it’s we the people, not we the corporations, and in Montana, we ain’t done yet.
You can learn more about the I-166 campaign and get involved at: http://www.StandWithMontanans.org.