Column: Sabotaging Montana's campaign finance legacy
AUSTIN, Texas -- As a Montana newspaper editorial succinctly put it: "The greatest living issue confronting us today is whether the corporations shall control the people or the people shall control the corporations."
That might sound like it was written in the wake of the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling. But it was actually in 1906, back when Montanans were rising up against out-of-state mining corporations known as the "copper kings." Those corporate powers were exploiting Montana's workforce, extracting its public resources and routinely extending bribes to control its government.
In 1912, however, the people passed the Corrupt Practices Act, a citizens initiative that outlawed direct corporate expenditures in elections for state office.
The law broke the copper kings' legislative chokehold, and a century later, it was still working to put people power over money politics. Even today, the average cost of state senate races in Montana stands at only $17,000. This low cost enables candidates to spend more time talking to everyday folks, and it contributes to one of America's highest voter-turnout rates.
Doesn't that sound like a model of democracy in action? Well, it was, until an out-of-state corporate front group rode in like copper kings to sue the state. With a pack of high-dollar lawyers and a bundle of corporate funding, the group wailed that Montana's anti-corruption law discriminates against poor corporations, denying them their First Amendment "right" to have the biggest voice in government that money can buy.
And now, the five corporate hacks controlling the Supreme Court have ratified the front group's ridiculous argument, imperiously shoving Montana's law into the ditch and re-imposing the rule of special interest money over the people's will.
To stop this court's coup against our democracy, we the People must pass a constitutional amendment overturning these decisions. To help, go to: www.United4ThePeople.org.
Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.