Montana Citizens Opposing Political Corruption
From Corporate Contributions
Letter to the Editor August 2012:
In 1942, the quick and effective response of the U.S. military seemed almost miraculous in light of the beating it had taken at Pearl Harbor. Defeating Japan depended on an abundant supply of oil for the U.S. ships and gasoline for its planes. Ramping up for war in the vast expanse of the Pacific required access to easily produced petroleum reserves.
Montana voters played a surprising role in the military preparedness of the U.S. It all started in 1912 when Montanans passed a one-sentence Initiative. "We, the people of Montana instruct the legislators to vote for and elect the U.S. Senate candidate receiving the most votes at the general election." Back then, legislators chose U.S. Senators by political whim or the highest bribe. But in 1912, the voters chose the anti-corporate lawyer, Thomas J. Walsh, and the legislature dutifully sent him to Washington as Montana’s Senator.
In his second term, Senator Walsh got wind of Washington-style political bribery. Oil executives H.F. Sinclair and E.L. Doheny (major contributors to President Harding‘s campaign) obtained leases for the Naval Oil Reserves at Teapot Dome, WY and Elk Hills, CA. There were no competitive bids; instead, the corporate-agents had bribed the Secretary of Interior. Walsh tenaciously gathered the evidence that convicted the law-breakers. Because of his doggedness, the Naval Reserves remained unmolested by greedy robber barons and were available for a quick response to the Japanese attack.
Can a Montana vote again transform U.S. history? In November, Initiative 166 will be before the voters. I-166 begins the process to ban corporate money from our elections. Corporate opponents are trying every scam in their power to defeat the Initiative. Currently, they are challenging I-166 in the Montana Supreme Court. They say Montana voters can not instruct their legislators by Initiative. Well Montana did it in 1912 and it worked out well. Let’s do it again. Survival of our nation just might depend on it.
Note: This initiative passed with 78.6% of the vote.
JANUARY 21, 2012
OCCUPY HELENA RALLY
MONTANA CAPITOL BUILDING IN HELENA
Only a handful of people have statues in the Montana Capitol Building. Those honored fought the corporations that controlled Montana.
The oldest statue is of Wilbur F. Sanders. He spoke at the dedication of the Capitol just a few days before he died. He was one of the last surviving pioneers and he made an oath for his dead comrades:
"If sordid greed, arrogant ignorance, selfish ambition, cowardly fear, or bribery profane this place, the voices of those who planted this civilization, from beyond the confines of the tomb will be heard in accordant execration." Translate that as 'chorus of loathing and cursing.'
As Montana Judge Jeffery Sherlock upheld Citizens United, perhaps he was haunted by the promised curses of the pioneers. The evidence is in his statement where he tries to reassure us 'the Copper Kings are a long time gone to their tombs.'
Three more men are honored in the Capitol rotunda. They are Burt Wheeler of Butte, Joe Dixon of Missoula, and Tom Walsh of Helena. These three had their political aspirations crushed by the mining trusts. They fought the corporate tyrants using the Initiative Process.
Tom Walsh was one of 40 founding members of the People’s Power League which placed the Corrupt Practices Act before the voters. It passed by 72%. As a result, Tom Walsh served 21 years as a U.S. Senator. He fought corporate corruption on the national level – remember the Tea Pot Dome Scandal?
Tom Walsh also issued a warning:
"The one great, all-embracing political problem before the American people is the preservation of our institutions from falling wholly into the hands of corporate and associated wealth, our cherished system of government must be saved from the ignominy of degenerating into a sordid plutocracy."
If Walsh were here he might say: Our democracy must not suffer the disgrace of being perverted into a corrupt government of the wealthy.
There is another statue of a person with a warning. Jannette Rankin ran for office after the passage of the Corrupt Practices Act and said: "The Company will try to do to me just what they have done to everyone who ever opposed them... They probably won’t assassinate me. They use more subtle methods now."
When a corporation outgrows its name, changing it is easy. Western Tradition Partnership has expanded into the American Tradition Partnership (ATP).
ATP is appealing the decision of the Montana Supreme Court that reinstates a century-old ban to corporate participation in candidate's elections. ATP believes the ruling of the Montana court is wrong and even contemptuous. What arrogance for a court to short-change a corporation's God-Given right to spend.
This is my advice to ATP. When a corporation appeals for the protection of God-Given rights, shouldn't it take it's case to a tribunal much higher than the U.S. Supreme Court?
On December 30, 2011, the Montana Supreme Court upheld the Corrupt Practices Act enacted by voter initiative 100 years ago. The court ruled that even in the face of the Citizens United decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, Montana had a compelling state interest to keep its elections and judiciary free of corruption or even the appearance of corruption. The court also determined that the Corrupt Practices Act also is narrowly tailored to achieve this goal.
The entire ruling is available on the Montana Supreme Court website. The case is DA 11-0081. http://searchcourts.mt.gov/
FIVE SMOOTH STONES
A David and Goliath Story
Montana 1910 to 2011
One hundred years ago, Amalgamated Copper, a national corporate giant, held sway over Montana and all its citizens. Amalgamated employed about two-thirds of the workers in the state as miners, smeltermen, loggers and even newspapermen. The governor and members of the legislature took their marching orders and their payoffs from the company lobbyists. The company-controlled daily newspapers followed orders from corporate headquarters.
Other corporations also drained the state's wealth. Jim Hill's three railroads set freight rates that overcharged farmers and ranchers. Banking corporations colluded to manage the fate of small business owners. The terrible oppression was collectively called the "Copper Collar." Almost no Montanan could slip the strangle-hold of corporate greed.
In 1910, the corporate mania to control everything finally went too far. Montanans were outraged when political operatives of the Amalgamated seized control of county nominating conventions. No political office proved too small to slip the notice of the operatives. After the election, even school boards made room for pro-corporate members.
The small-town weekly newspapers had for the most part avoided the scrutiny of the giant corporations. They reported the harmless local news. But the election take-over was local news and editors around the state railed against the corporations as they never had before. From the Terry Tribune, came this quote.
"Campaigns were conducted by simply the opening of a barrel, and sowing the state from one end to the other with corporation money - the largest barrel winning in the end. This extravagant campaigning prevented the election of any but the wealthy or those supported by special interests."
On June 11, 1911, forty determined men organized the People's Power League and began to search, like David, for five smooth stones to topple the corporate giants and remove them from Montana elections. The Sanders County Democrat encouraged them with: "the Treasure State will again be a free people represented by men untrammeled by...greed and graft."
The sling to launch the stones was new but untried. The Initiative and Referendum Process had been added to the constitution in 1906 to circumvent the Company-run legislature. Three initiatives were drafted to set up a system of primary elections. A referendum would repeal a hated militia law. The fifth ballot measure was the stone that would smash into the corporate giant's temple. It was called the Corrupt Practices Act and banned corporate expenditures in elections for political office.
Voters passed all five ballot issues -- most with over 75% of the vote. In establishing fair and honest primary elections, Montanans evened the playing field and became a political force that the corporate bosses could no longer dominate.
The 1912 initiatives governed Montana elections for one hundred years with few changes made. That is until Western Tradition Partnership, Inc. challenged the constitutionality of the Corrupt Practices Act. WTP argued that the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision allowed independent expenditures in campaigns as a First Amendment right of corporations.
In October 2010, Judge Jeffrey Sherlock, First Montana Judicial District, agreed with WTP's argument. If the decision sticks, Montana's Corrupt Practices Act will no longer keep big- money interests from defining the issues, attacking the integrity of candidates, and flooding the media and voter's mailboxes with slick advertising. If WTP prevails before Montana's Supreme Court, office holders, including judges, may again be hand-picked by the corporations just as they were in 1910.
Attorney General Bullock appealed the lower court ruling to the Montana Supreme Court. States are allowed to restrict free speech rights when there is a good reason to do so and the restriction is not overly broad. In legal terms, the state must have a Compelling State Interest and the law must be Narrowly Tailored. Pornography is one example of speech that is restricted and there are others.
Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act has already demonstrated compelling state interest. An excellent example is Thomas J. Walsh who was a founding member of the People's Power League. Prior to 1911, he had campaigned twice for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Even though he was a popular choice, company manipulation of the state legislature defeated him each time.
In his third bid, Walsh had more votes in the Senate than any other man running. Since the company could not deny Walsh the seat outright, they tied up the Senate in bureaucratic infighting. The legislature voted fifty times without naming a U.S. Senator. The last vote was taken during the last hour of the legislative session.
The company lobbyists claimed they’d be happy to send anyone to the U.S. Senate except Thomas J. Walsh. But their actual plan was to leave Montana’s seat empty. In this way, the company would teach Walsh and his supporters that no one beats the Company.
Walsh, not wanting the senate seat to go vacant, withdrew his name and nominated a respected colleague, William Myers. Company lobbyists put up no opposition as the final day of the legislature drew to an end. In the blink of an eye, an astonished Senator Myers was on his way to Washington D.C.
Thomas Walsh did not mourn his loss. Instead, he met with like-minded Montanans to form the People’s Power League. The year the initiatives became law, Thomas Walsh entered the U.S. Senate for a distinguished career of twenty four years. Other notables, equally despised by the Company, also found the way open to win election. The respected Lewistown judge, Edwin Cheadle, became a Supreme Court Justice. Joseph Dixon became governor. Janette Rankin served in the U.S. House of Representatives and Burton K. Wheeler served in the U.S. Senate.
Montana turned the corner from corporate colony to respectable statehood by restraining corporate participation in election campaigns. There could be no more compelling reason to retain Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act.
Our law strikes at the heart of the matter. Corporations may form political action committees and expend money to sway candidate elections. PAC influence is open and accountable. The Corrupt Practices Act is narrowly tailored to maintain fair and honest elections.
The Corrupt Practices Act should remain Montana law. The sanctity of the ballot box is just as important as protecting our children from pornography. Should we lose our law, Montana's fall back position is to join with other states and call for a constitutional amendment to deny corporations the rights of persons.
Press Release Carole Mackin, spokesperson May 2011 People's Power league
Vigilantes with Petition and Pen
The People's Power League, which sponsored the initiative creating the Corrupt Practices Act of 1912, filed a friend of the court brief proving that the legacy of men long dead can defend a hard-won initiative. Specifically, the Corrupt Practices Act barred corporations from contributing money to candidates for office and provided criminal penalties for violations.
Helena's District Judge Jeffrey M. Sherlock assured the Montana Supreme Court in his ruling that “the Copper Kings are a long time gone to their tombs” and can no longer corrupt Montana elections. He ruled the state’s Corrupt Practices Act unconstitutional on October 18, 2010 based on the Citizens United decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Thomas J. Walsh, Miles Romney, R.N. Sutherlin, and William K. Harber, who were founding members of the League, offer the following advice as the appeal is considered.
Butte. “The one great, all embracing political problem before the American people is the preservation of our institutions from falling wholly into the hands of corporate and associated wealth, our cherished system of government from the ignominy of degenerating into a sordid plutocracy.” Thomas J. Walsh, speech to the 1906 State Democratic Convention Great Falls.
Great Falls. “With the initiative and referendum, Montanans felt they had a weapon powerful enough to put all corporations out of politics both now and for all the years to come.” R. N. Sutherlin, Rocky Mountain Husbandman (June 2, 1904)
Hamilton. “It will be impossible for the agents of the great copper trust, who boast of the employment of half the men in the state, to coerce or buy a majority of the voters in any given county, or the state as a whole, protected as they will be both in the primary and the general election by the Australian (secret) ballot and a drastic corrupt practices act.” Miles Romney, Western News (April 26, 1912)
Ft. Benton. “It has been announced from time to time that the Amalgamated is 'out of politics,' but its lobby and other legislative agencies have not disappeared from public view..." Wm. K. Harber, River Press (March 1913)
“A century later, Montanans still adhere to the ideals of the People's Power League and heed William Harber's warning that corporate influence over elections still lurks. Unchecked corporate expenditures can corrupt the political process.” Carole Mackin, spokesperson for the People's Power League.
ATP and others want to engage in their proposed political speech and association activities right now, in the months leading to the 2012 election, but are prohibited by Montana’s election and campaign finance laws.
ATP claims these laws unconstitutionally restrict their First
Amendment free speech and association rights. They have therefore filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of these laws and seek a preliminary injunction against their enforcement.
Case: Lair et al v. Gallik et al
Case Number: 1:2011cv00102
Date Filed: September 6, 2011
Plaintiffs: Doug Lair, Steve Dogiakos, American Tradition Partnership, American Tradition Partnership PAC, Montana Right to Life Association PAC, Sweet Grass Council for Community Integrity, Lake County Republican Central Committee, Beaverhead County Republican Central Committee, Jake Oil, JL Oil, Champion Painting, John Milanovich.
Defendants: David B. Gallik, Steve Bullock, Leo Gallagher
Thursday, January 20, 2011
The Christian Science News
Link to Article
Common Cause President Bob Edgar said the group has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to examine whether Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas should have stepped aside rather than vote in the Citizens United case.
The case, handed down a year ago on Friday (Jan. 21), struck down a portion of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law that had barred corporate expenditures for political advertisements during campaign season.
Reform advocates denounced the ruling as opening the way for a flood of corporate money and corporate influence in US politics. Supporters of the decision praised it as recognizing that corporate officials have a free speech right to engage in public discussion of political issues of importance to the company.
March 21, 2011
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT
No. 10-30080, No. 10-30146
ANH CAO, also known as Joseph Cao; REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE, REPUBLICAN PARTY OF LOUISIANA
FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION,
The challenges raised in the present case require this court to decide whether certain provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) of 1971, 2 U.S.C. § 431 et seq., violate the Plaintiffs’ right to free speech under the First Amendment.
Applying Supreme Court precedent, we conclude that each of the challenged FECA provisions constitutes a constitutionally permissible regulation of political parties’ campaign contributions and coordinated expenditures. Accordingly, we find that none of the challenged provisions unconstitutionally infringe upon the rights of the Plaintiffs to engage in political debate and discussion.
Note: Cao and the RNC asserted that FEC restrictions on the spending of RNC party funds to run party-written radio ads in direct coordination with the Cao campaign as to timing were
unconstitutional. The dissent includes extensive discussion of the technical and substantive merits of the decision.
Link to Opinion
Supreme Court Challenge to Arizona Clean Elections Act Could Have National Implications
By J. Gerald Hebert and Tara Malloy
Campaign Legal Center
Link to Article
On March 28th, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in McComish v. Bennett, a high-stakes campaign finance case in which the Court will assess the constitutionality of a public financing law for the first time in 35 years. The case deals with the “triggered matching funds provisions” of Arizona’s highly successful Clean Elections system, but it could affect similar public financing systems in numerous states and cities. Just a year after the controversial decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the Court is once again poised to issue a ruling that could make it harder for ordinary citizens to compete with big money in our democracy.
MASTERS OF THE
Hamilton Western News
Butte Evening News
Cut Bank Pioneer Press
Lewistown Democrat News
Great Falls Tribune
Rocky Mountain Husbandman
Daily Yellowstone Journal
Livingston Daily Post
Wm. K. Harber
Ft. Benton River Press