Montanans lead the fight to end corporate control of our elections.

A recent New York Times editorial, “Undermining State Campaign Laws,” was spot on in identifying what is at stake in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision and the subsequent challenge to Montana’s century-old Corrupt Practices Act of 1912.

The column concludes with this: “At stake is whether state elections will be decided by corporations that are allowed to spend unlimited amounts to influence the results.”

I couldn’t have said it better.

The discussion over corporate personhood, defining money as speech, and granting political speech rights to corporations can easily go into an esoteric realm only truly understood by lawyers and policy wonks. But the question at hand is fairly simple: should corporations be allowed to use their immense wealth and their corporate checkbook to influence our elections?

Stand with Montanans believes the answer is firmly NO, which is why we have decided to take this issue to the Montana people.

Montanans are all too familiar with the implications of allowing corporations to use the corporate check book to fund campaigns. After all, corporations don’t get involved in elections in the spirit of civic participation, rather it is an investment. Corporations pull out the corporate check book for one reason only – they want something in return, namely policies that benefit the corporation. At the turn of the last century, Montana’s politics were dominated by copper barons. The copper dome atop our state Capitol symbolized who was really in charge in Montana. Things got so bad, that one copper baron, William A. Clark, bought himself a U.S. Senate seat by bribing Montana state legislators.

Montanans were outraged, and the reaction to Clark and his bribery went far beyond the Montana state line.

Mark Twain said of Sen. William Clark, “He is said to have bought legislatures and judges as other men buy food and raiment. By his example he has so excused and so sweetened corruption that in Montana it no longer has an offensive smell.”

The outrage at such blatant corruption was also a driving force behind the amendment to the U.S. Constitution to elect US senators by a direct vote of the people.

With such a history, is it any wonder that Montanans are taking a stand to correct this mess? We have no interest in returning to the dark days of the copper barons.

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