I think it's about time I made something about this as the events have been unfolding on it, and I haven't really seen much of any focused
discussion about it so far. I'll try to summarize it based on how I understand the situation
and provide regular links, as some of the documentation is pretty verbose.
It appears that SCOTUS had struck down Montana's century-old Corrupt Practices Act
a little while back, which among other things(but most importantly to this discussion) dealt with corporate money's involvement in the election process. They struck it down based on their previous Citizens United ruling, infuriating the Governet and Lt. Governer of Montana, Brian Schweitzer and John Bohlinger respectively.
As a result, they are now looking to go over SCOTUS and are calling for a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United. Their statement is as follows:
They, as well as various other organizations have set up several different web sites
about this issue.
I have been receiving various e-mail updated from these organizations and it seems so far that as of last week, six states so far have already gotten onboard - Hawaii, New Mexico, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maryland, California, and most recently Massachusetts passing a resolution through their state legislature. (For reference, at minimum 38 states and 2/3 of congress are required to pass and ratify and amendment).
Senator Jim McGovern of Massachusetts has also put forth H. J. RES. 88
in the House, and S. J. RES. 29
calling for the constitutional amendment.
Montana has also introduced initiative I-166
as part of a "screw you, SCOTUS" state law, was well as marking the state's official participation in the list of states calling for a constitutional amendment:
Full text of the initiative as follows(warning, may initially be formatted crappily as preview doesn't like spoiler tags):
THE COMPLETE TEXT OF INITIATIVE NO. 166 (I-166)
BE IT ENACTED BY THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MONTANA:
NEW SECTION. Section 1. Short title. [Sections 1 through 4] may be cited as the
“Prohibition on Corporate Contributions and Expenditures in Montana Elections Act.”
NEW SECTION. Section 2. Preamble. The people of the state of Montana find
(1) since 1912, through passage of the Corrupt Practices Act by initiative,
Montana has prohibited corporate contributions to and expenditures on candidate
(2) in 1996, by passage of Initiative No. 125, Montana prohibited corporations
from using corporate funds to make contributions to or expenditures on ballot issue
(3) Montana’s 1996 prohibition on corporate contributions to ballot issue
campaigns was invalidated by Montana Chamber of Commerce v. Argenbright, 226 F.3d
1049 (2000). Montana’s 1912 prohibition on corporate contributions to and
expenditures on candidate elections is also being challenged under the holding of
Citizens United v. FEC, 558 U.S. _____, 130 S.Ct. 876 (2010). This decision equated the
political speech rights of corporations with those of human beings.
(4) in 2011 the Montana Supreme Court, in its decision, Western Tradition
Partnership, Inc. v. Attorney General, 2011 MT 328, upheld Montana’s 1912 prohibition
on corporate contributions to and expenditures on candidate campaigns, stating in its
opinion as follows:
(a) examples of well-financed corruption involving corporate money abound in
(b) the corporate power that can be exerted with unlimited corporate political
spending is still a vital interest to the people of Montana;
(c) corporate independent spending on Montana ballot issues has far exceeded
spending from other sources;
(d) unlimited corporate money into candidate elections would irrevocably
change the dynamic of local Montana political office races;
(e) with the infusion of unlimited corporate money in support of or opposition
to a targeted candidate, the average citizen candidate in Montana would be unable to
compete against the corporate-sponsored candidate, and Montana citizens, who for
over 100 years have made their modest election contributions meaningfully count,
would be effectively shut out of the process; and
(f) clearly the impact of unlimited corporate donations creates a dominating
impact on the Montana political process and inevitably minimizes the impact of
individual Montana citizens.
NEW SECTION. Section 3. Policy. (1) It is policy of the state of Montana that each elected and appointed official in Montana, whether acting on a state or federal level, advance the philosophy that corporations are not human beings with constitutional rights and that each such elected and appointed official is charged to act to prohibit, whenever possible, corporations from making contributions to or expenditures on the campaigns of candidates or ballot issues. As part of this policy, each such elected and appointed official in Montana is charged to promote actions that accomplish a level playing field in election spending.
(2) When carrying out the policy under subsection (1), Montana’s elected and appointed officials are generally directed as follows:
(a) that the people of Montana regard money as property, not speech;
(b) that the people of Montana regard the rights under the United States Constitution as rights of human beings, not rights of corporations;
(c) that the people of Montana regard the immense aggregation of wealth that is accumulated by corporations using advantages provided by the government to be corrosive and distorting when used to advance the political interests of corporations;
(d) that the people of Montana intend that there should be a level playing field in campaign spending that allows all individuals, regardless of wealth, to express their views to one another and their government; and
(e) that the people of Montana intend that a level playing field in campaign spending includes limits on overall campaign expenditures and limits on large contributions to or expenditures for the benefit of any campaign by any source, including corporations, individuals, or political committees.
NEW SECTION. Section 4. Promotion of policy by elected or appointed officials.
(1) Montana’s congressional delegation is charged with proposing a joint resolution offering an amendment to the United States constitution that accomplishes the following:
(a) overturns the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission;
(b) establishes that corporations are not human beings with constitutional rights;
(c) establishes that campaign contributions or expenditures by corporations, whether to candidates or ballot issues, may be prohibited by a political body at any level of government; and
(d) accomplishes the goals of Montanans in achieving a level playing field in election spending.
(2) Montana’s congressional delegation is charged to work diligently to bring such a joint resolution to a vote and passage, including use of discharge petitions, cloture, and every other procedural method to secure a vote and passage.
(3) The members of the Montana legislature, if given the opportunity, are charged with ratifying any amendment to the United States constitution that is consistent with the policy of the state of Montana.
NEW SECTION. Section 5. Saving clause. [This act] does not affect rights and duties that matured, penalties that were incurred, or proceedings that were begun before [the effective date of this act.]
NEW SECTION. Section 6. Severability. If a part of [this act] is invalid, all valid parts that are severable from the invalid part remain in effect. If a part of [this act] is invalid in one or more of its applications, the part remains in effect in all valid applications that are severable from the invalid applications.
NEW SECTION. Section 7. Effective date. [This act] is effective upon approval by the electorate.
NEW SECTION. Section 8. Codification instruction. Sections [1 through 4] are intended to be codified as an integral part of Title 13 and the provisions of Title 13 apply to sections [1 through 4].
As you can imagine, at the ass end of late Friday last week, opponents of I-166 headed by Senator Dave Lewis of Montana filed a lawsuit in order to keep I-166 from appearing on the ballot at all. Now mind you that the valid signature count for the I-166 petition is, as of Monday, nearly 32,000 signatures with 61 of Montana’s 100 house districts qualified. I-166 qualified for the ballot easily
, as Montana law requires 24,337 total signatures as well as signatures from 5% of the voters in 34 house districts. I'm not sure what the case number is for this suit but I am curious to see what the basis is for the lawsuit to block it.
C.B. Pearson, Treasurer for the standwithmontanans.org web site as linked above, has also issued a statement
about the situation.
That is currently about where everything stands to the best of my knowledge on the subject. I am strictly going by any resources I have found on these sites as well as Google for the specific text of I-166.
It is quite interesting to watch this whole situation unfold. Under normal circumstances I wouldn't say a constitutional amendment would have a snowball's chance in hell, but given the specific nature of this amendment, and the public's general disillusionment with SCOTUS over Citizens United, I can certainly see this getting at least some
traction. Particularly when you consider how hard Montana has been pushing it even with almost nonexistent media coverage.
So far the media in general has seen fit to ignore it in favor of such things as exclusive video reports about a morbidly
obese woman who lost 100 pounds via marathon sex sessions with her ex(yes, this is an actual story - no, I'm not going to link it). But if it gets far enough to gain widespread support, they may be forced to acknowledge it like they (begrudgingly) did with SOPA.