Friday, January 22, 2010

Court's spending decision hits home

Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2010 at 2:10 PM

Yesterday's shocking ruling by the Supreme Court to allow companies to spend unlimited amounts of cash to support or oppose individual candidates rightly hit home with a few local politicians.

The decision, if you're unfamiliar, "shakes the foundation of corporate limitations on federal and state elections that stretch back a century," wrote the Washington Post. Republicans cheered the decision as a victory for free speech. Obama and Democrats, not so much.

Two local Democrats — City Councilman Jason Wiener and congressional candidate Tyler Gernant — wrote to constituents today to speak out against the ruling and explain how they think it could impact upcoming races.

From Tyler, the epitome of a grassroots campaigner:

Back in Washington, Dennis Rehberg and his special interest pals are toasting the decision. Now Wall Street, oil companies, and the health insurance industry can put even more money behind their man in Washington.

As you know, we are running a very different kind of campaign. Our grassroots campaign is driven by the simple notion that a Congressman from Montana ought to be doing what's best for the people of Montana. That might seem like a radical notion to Dennis Rehberg and the special interest groups who fund him, but what else would you expect from a politician whose career has been built by special interest groups?

We need your help, please contribute $25, $50, or $100 to help elect a Congressman who will represent the people of Montana. Together, we will take a stand against the corporate funding of elections.

And an eloquent perspective from Jason:

Here's what the decision means to local government. My first election campaign cost under $5,000. That's for knocking on doors, sending out letters and postcards, printing yard signs, setting up a web site and everything else that went into reaching the voters of my ward. I collected the money needed to run my campaign through the generous donations of supporters—none of which were able to give more than $160 per election and most of whom gave less than $35. With yesterday's decision, if a corporation in Missoula (or China, for that matter) decides it does not like a decision I make about zoning, subdivision, parks, taxes, transportation or any of the things I was elected to decide in the public interest, that corporation can spend without limit to defeat me or anyone else that does not do its bidding. This a perversion of democracy, where elected officials will be little more than nameplates for corporate interests flooding mailboxes and media so government serves their interests to the exclusion of yours.

We can reverse this. It will require a solution as radical as the Supreme Court's action: an amendment to the US Constitution.

This afternoon, I called Senators Baucus (202-224-2651) and Tester (202-224-2644) and Representative Rehberg (202-225-3211) and asked them to support a Constitutional amendment to clarify that money is not speech, that corporations are not persons and only human beings have rights protected by the Constitution. I'd like you to do so the same, ask for a response and tell them this is a dealbreaker.

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