At the turn of the last century, Montana politics was dominated by copper barons who wielded their immense wealth to control Montana newspapers and run the state government like it was their own subsidiary. Their power and influence went so far that one copper baron, William Clark, actually bought himself a U.S. Senate seat, which at the time was decided by a vote of the Montana State Senate rather than a vote of the people.
In 1912, fed up with such corporate influence and corruption in Montana politics, Montana voters passed the Corrupt Practices Act by initiative, thereby banning direct corporate spending in Montana elections. For 100 years, Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act has served our state well, ensuring that our state government ultimately serves the people of Montana, and not wealthy corporate interests.
But in January 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court, in its ill-conceived Citizens United decision, found that corporations are entitled to the same rights as people and therefore the government cannot limit political spending by corporations. While the Montana ban on corporate spending was upheld in a recent decision by the Montana Supreme Court, that decision was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Until February 17th, Montana was the only state in the country still enforcing a ban on corporate spending in elections after the Citizens United decision. But on that day, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the recent decision by the Montana Supreme Court, opening the door for big money to flood Montana's state elections. And on June 25th, the U.S. Supreme Court summarily reversed the Montana Supreme Court decision, thus throwing out Montana's 100-year old Corrupt Practices Act without even hearing the evidence in the case.
Without an amendment to the U.S. Constitution clarifying that corporations are not people and that money is not speech, our carefully enacted policies aimed at cleaning up elections and reducing the undue influence of money in politics will remain under threat.