Talk:American Tradition Partnership

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Corrupt Practices Act of 1912

A voter initiative in response to mining interests monopolizing and directing Montana's political landscape, the Corrupt Practices Act became law in 1912. It was regarded as one of the most thorough, progressive pieces of state legislation in the country regarding campaign finance and disclosure. In 1911, the Montana Legislature, under corporate control, expanded the state militia to protect the property of the mining companies, conscripting able-bodied civilians in the process. The following year, voters responded to the vise-like grip mining magnates and copper kings William Clark, F. Augustus Heinze, and Marcus Daly had on the state.[1] 77% of the people voted for an initiative that stated that no corporation or individual holding the majority of stock in any corporation “shall pay or contribute in order to aid, promote or prevent the nomination or election of any person, or in order to aid or promote the interests, success or defeat of any political party or organization.”

A 1906 editorial in a Montana newspaper read, “The greatest living issue confronting us today is whether the corporations shall control the people or the people shall control the corporations.”[2]

On November 6, 2012, The State Legislature (rhetorically) affirmed the State Supreme Court's upholding the Corrupt Practices Act with Montana Code 13-35-502:

The people of the state of Montana find that:

  • (1) since 1912, through passage of the Corrupt Practices Act by initiative, Montana has prohibited corporate contributions to and expenditures on candidate elections;
  • (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 campaigns;
  • (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 Montana;
    • (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.
  • Charles S. Johnson, "State urges U.S. Supreme Court to let 1912 Corrupt Practices Act stand" The Billings Gazette, May 20, 2012
  • Steve Bullock, "Big sky, clean politics: Citizens United decision pits U.S. Supreme Court vs. Montana high court" The Missoulian, June 20, 2012