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Relentless Push by the US Supreme Court Requires a Strong Montana Commission on Political Practices

What did our legislators think Montanans were telling them about the importance of our election laws when, in 2012, every county and 75 percent of all voters passed Montana’s initiative that said corporations are not people and money is not speech? Why did we directly oppose the Supreme Court’s Jan. 21 2010, Citizen’s United decision?

Does our initiative have meaning today?

How does it play out in Republican and Democratic party politics?

How do we enforce what remains of our election laws and our Montana 1912 Corrupt Act?

A lot of these questions are answered by how our legislature treats the Commission on Political Practices and how strong and healthy it is allowed to be. Because when the rubber meets the road, the main enforcer of our remaining election laws is the Commission on Political Practices.

James Bopp understands the importance of our Commission on Political Practices. That’s why he tried to weaken it before our last election.

Bopp owns the Indiana law firm that brought the Citizens United case forward to the U.S. Supreme Court. He continues to scour the country, looking for cases to bring to the high court, in the hope of further rulings against election laws, in the name of free speech.

Bopp has a satellite office in Bozeman where lawyer Anita Milanovich represents the dark money group Montanans for Community Development. MCD’s president is Bill Coate, who ran for governor as an Independent in 2012. One of its board members is former state Sen. Ed Walker, R-Billings.

They tried to stop enforcement of our disclosure laws and questioned their constitutionality. The judge said that the attempt was “staggering” in the breadth of what Bopps’ team asked, especially since it was so close to our November election.

Bopp and others don’t seem to understand that when Montanans say corporations are not people, we say it because we have felt their heavy hand, and when we say money is not speech, we say it because we have seen it corrupt our elections.

If we citizens want to be heard above the din of corporations and money, we must have a strong Commission on Political Practices or the relentless national campaign to destroy election laws will pay no attention to the laws we have left.

The commission is vulnerable because it is controlled by the very Legislators it is charged to investigate. This session, the Legislature will have to decide whether to ratify the 2013 appointment of its present commissioner by Gov. Steve Bullock and how to fund it.

As citizens, we need to tell our Legislature that we want to protect our remaining election laws with a strong Commission on Political Practices. We need to tell them that we are 75 percent of the voters and we are joined together across party lines.

It will take a massive demonstration of political will by Montanans.

James Bopp understands that our Commission on Political Practices is a lynch pin.

And Montanans should too.

Citizens can: Contact your legislators from both parties and tell them we want them to keep our Commission on Political Practices strong.

Citizens can: Tell our legislators that we are ready for them to amend the U.S. Constitution to say that corporations are not people and money isn't speech, and they need to listen to us. We've already voiced that this is best for Montana.

To have a message given to your legislators: online, search “Montana — contact a legislator” or phone (406) 444-4800.

To follow bills that affect the commission and fair elections: contact Missoula Moves to Amend at 406-543-3254 or Facebook: missoula moves to amend and we’ll add you to our e-mail list.

In Missoula, come to our rally, Wednesday, Jan. 21 at 11 a.m. at the Federal Courthouse, at Pattee and East Broadway, to celebrate the success we've had in five years of fighting the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Then join us on Thursday, Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church (Higgins and Brooks) for a chili feed and Legislative Round-up to learn how to protect fair elections and the Commission on Political Practices. 

Sue Kirchmyer is chairperson of Missoula Moves to Amend, a nonprofit organization whose purpose is educating the public about the need for the constitutional amendment that will allow lawmakers to effectively regulate out elections. Contact Missoula Moves to Amend on Facebook or at meetings held on the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 7 p.m. at the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center 519 South Higgins (back entrance).

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