Thursday, January 5, 2012

Drawing a connection between Iowa caucus and Montana Supreme Court

Posted By on Thu, Jan 5, 2012 at 10:10 AM

Slate's Dahlia Lithwick thinks recent events in Iowa and Montana offer a clear message about campaign spending. Lithwick notes how super PAC money heavily influenced the Iowa caucus, and ties it directly to the recent Montana Supreme Court decision to boldly uphold the state’s law limiting corporate election spending.

I think what we just saw in Iowa and Montana proves again that corporations aren’t really people, money isn’t really speech, and that saying so isn’t just a way of speaking truth to power. It might just win you an election, too.

The analysis of Montana's role is important. In part, Lithwick writes:

But by a 5-2 margin, Montana’s high court determined that the state law survived “strict scrutiny” because Montana’s unique context and history justified the ban in ways not contemplated by Citizens United. In his majority opinion, Chief Justice Mike McGrath ... lays it out this way: “The question then, is when in the last 99 years did Montana lose the power or interest sufficient to support the statute, if it ever did. If the statute has worked to preserve a degree of political and social autonomy is the State required to throw away its protections?” The majority went out of its way to note that unlimited campaign spending on judicial elections is also having a profoundly damaging effect on judicial integrity all around the country.

The Montana decision "practically begs to be overturned," but Lithwick smartly defends it. For that matter, so does George Ochenski in this week's column for the Indy.

Finally, it's worth remembering that Missoula voters were ahead of this issue last November, when they overwhelmingly passed a referendum saying corporations are not people. More and more are lining up with the same opinion.

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