Monday, June 7, 2010

Who is Trying to Undo Montana’s Century-old Clean Elections Law?

Center for Media and Democracy

Montana’s law states, “A corporation may not make a contribution or expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political committee that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party.” The law was passed in 1912 to curb the influence of the notorious mining interests, known as the “Copper Kings.” Now, a right-wing, 501(c)(4) group based out of Colorado called Western Tradition Partnership, has teamed with the local Bozeman, Montana Champion Paint store to challenge the constitutionality of that law in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United. The suit was filed in the Helena District Court.

In their own words, “Western Tradition Partnership (WTP) is a "no-compromise grassroots organization dedicated to fighting the radical environmentalist agenda.” Their commitment to “the responsible development of natural resources” actually means support for drilling, coal-mining, and other environmentally destructive behavior. Former Congressman Ron Marlenee (R-Montana) and former State Representative John Sinrud (R-Bozeman) helped found the Montana affiliate of Western Tradition Partnership in 2008. WTP and Champion Paint are being represented by Margot Barg of the Wittich Law Firm, based in Bozeman, Montana.

Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock, one of the defendants named in the lawsuit, is a strong defender of the state law, and has testified before the U.S Senate that overturning the law would be catastrophic for Montana politics. The winning State Senate candidate in the last Montana elections spent an average of only $17,000. Corporations, particularly out-of-state corporations that do business in Montana could easily drown out the voices of regular citizens if this law was overturned.
You can see a copy of WTP/Champion Paint’s complaint here (pdf).

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