It seems that money in politics has gotten to be like the weather: everyone talks about it and, at least in Montana, everyone has a pretty good idea where it’s coming from, thanks to the 2015 Disclose Act.
The money and ads can still rain down on us, but we know from what direction.
However, it’s hard to have faith that disclosure is the final fix for money in politics. The recent $30,000 fine our Commissioner of Political Practices imposed on the Montana Growth Network for a 2012 campaign violation may not be enough of a deterrent for a group with $900,000 to spend. That 3.3 percent penalty has to be compared to the high stakes gain they might have achieved if they won a sympathetic seat on the Montana Supreme Court, where decisions are made about whether our vast Treasure State treasures will be privatized or preserved for future generations.
Meanwhile, regarding disclosure at the national level, riders on the budget bill galloped in the wrong direction, by forbidding regulations to make federal contractors disclose political spending, preventing the SEC from requiring companies to tell shareholders about political spending, and stopping the IRS from telling 501-C4 non profits what they can and can’t do.
If disclosure only gets us partway, it’s clear that it will take a lot of us working together to get at the root of the Citizens United decision by passing a US constitutional amendment .
In order to reach Montanans everywhere, Montanans Move to Amend is hosting a statewide event in Helena, “Unite against Citizens United: A film and discussion about getting Big Money out of Politics” on Saturday, April 28, from 11 am to 2 pm. Meeting supporters include SERPAJ (Service for Peace and Justice), MontPIRG, and the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center.
Greg Coleridge, national organizer and speaker from Move to Amend, will use a documentary film, “Legalize Democracy” followed by a presentation to explain how big money and corporate activism have undermined democracy in the United States.
Participants will explore the human costs of policies that result from the dominance of big money and corporate activism. They will also focus on the unique and collective strategies they can employ across the state to challenge the effects of big money in the upcoming 2018 elections.
Montana had the dubious honor in 2010 of having our campaign laws specifically overridden by the US Supreme Court when we tried to tell the Supreme Court that the 2010 Citizens United decision did not apply to us because we had firsthand experience of money and corporations corrupting our elections.
In 2012, that affront by the Court was remembered by 75 percent of Montanans when they voted by initiative to call for a constitutional amendment that would say that corporations are not people and money is not speech.
Statewide outreach and “Unite against Citizens United” can help Montana get back to its roots of working together to have fair elections.
How many other states chose citizen delegates to write a new constitution? In 1972 we trusted our neighbors to craft a document we could trust. Let’s engage our neighbors and craft a movement that will reach beyond our town, county, and state to amend the US Constitution and get big money out of politics.