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Fighting Citizens United, Corporate Personhood: Montana, Colorado

Ballot Issues We're Watching

- Common Dreams staff

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision of 2010 allows for corporate and union donors to contribute unlimited amounts of money to any given organization that deals in "electioneering communications," or political messaging ahead of any given campaign. The idea behind the decision, which ruled in favor of the conservative non-profit organization Citizens United, is that corporations and non-profits, like people, should be able to use their money for public political messaging and advertising -- effectively giving free speech rights to corporations previously reserved for individuals.

Super PACS and "Shadow Money" groups have proliferated, opening the "floodgates to corporate and special interest spending in our elections," as People for the American Way puts it. These organizations, filed under non-profit status, collect unlimited amounts of corporate donations and use this mega-funding to create vast messaging campaigns in favor of political candidates, ballot issues, and the like. A massive spike in political advertising on television networks and "negative ads" has been attributed to this.

"Shadow Money" groups in particular do not have to disclose those who donate to their organization, hence the name. Filing as a tax-exempt 501c(4)s grants groups this invincibility.

Even with "Shadow" or undisclosed money unaccounted for, however, if predictions come true, disclosed non-party outside spending alone could total an unprecedented $1 billion in 2012.

Multiple groundswell campaigns across the country have called on state legislators to pass an amendment overturning the Citizens United ruling, saying that allowing corporations to dominate election messaging tilts the scales in favor of big money interests and away from those of ordinary citizens.

Voters in Montana and Colorado will vote this November on such resolutions, which have reached ballots by way of citizen petitions.

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Montana's I-166

"Ballot initiative I-166 establishes a state policy that corporations are not entitled to constitutional rights because they are not human beings, and charges Montana elected and appointed officials, state and federal, to implement that policy. With this policy, the people of Montana establish that there should be a level playing field in campaign spending, in part by prohibiting corporate campaign contributions and expenditures and by limiting political spending in elections..."

"FOR charging Montana elected and appointed officials, state and federal, with implementing a policy that corporations are not human beings with constitutional rights.

"AGAINST charging Montana elected and appointed officials, state and federal, with implementing a policy that corporations are not human beings with constitutional rights."

The Basics

The Corporate Contributions Amendment, also known as I-166, will appear on Montana's November 6, 2012 general election ballot. The measure, proposed by the group Stand with Montanans, would determine state policy on prohibiting corporate contributions and expenditures in state and national elections. The measure seeks to charge state lawmakers with furthering the state's policy on the matter and ask congressional delegates to support efforts to overrule the Citizens United decision by amending the U.S. Constitution.

Yes on I-166

  • Stand with Montanans have led the campaign in the state for Initiative I-166.
  • Supporters collected over 40,000 signatures to get the question on the ballot, well over the 24,337 required.
  • Stand with Montanans are endorsed by Free Speech People, Common Cause and People for the American Way, among other organizations.
  • According to FollowtheMoney.org, Stand with Montanans have raised $112,580. Click here to donate to the campaign

No on I-166

  • State Senator Dave Lewis, businessman Phil Lilleberg, and the group Montanans Opposed to I-166 filed a lawsuit with the Montana Supreme Court to block I-166 from the ballot this fall, stating the initiative "is not legally sufficient to appear on the state’s general election ballot, and that the statements prepared for the petition and the ballot do not meet the requirements of (state law)." The suit was turned down.
  • Montanans Opposed to I-166 are funded by the American Tradition Partnership, a right-wing 501(c)4 advocacy group, or "Shadow Money" organization that describes it's mission as "fighting the radical environmentalist agenda."

Polling on Montana I-166

Date Pollster Yes No Undecided
9/10-9/11 Public Policy Polling 53 24 23

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Colorado Amendment 65

"Shall there be amendments to the Colorado constitution and the Colorado revised statutes concerning support by Colorado’s legislative representatives for a federal constitutional amendment to limit campaign contributions and spending, and, in connection therewith, instructing Colorado’s congressional delegation to propose and support, and the members of Colorado’s state legislature to ratify, an amendment to the United States constitution that allows congress and the states to limit campaign contributions and spending?"

 

The Basics

Amendment 65 seeks to strike down the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial 2010 Citizens United decision by instructing state lawmakers and Colorado’s congressional delegation to push for and support campaign finance reform at the federal level.

Yes on 65

  • Coloradans Get Big Money Out of Politics is a coalition of organizations and Colorado citizens who run the Vote Yes on 65 Campaign.
  • The campaign is run in correlation with the groups Colorado Fair Share, Colorado Common Cause and CoPIRG. The campaign is endorsed by many organizations including 350.org, Food & Water Watch, MoveOn.org, NARAL Pro-Choice, People for the American Way, Public Citizen and Planned Parenthood.
  • Supporters delivered 176,000 petition initiative signatures to get the question on the ballot, well over the 85,853 signatures required.
  • According to FollowtheMoney.org, Vote Yes on 65 groups have raised $751,761. Click here to donate.

No on 65

  • No formal opposition has been formed against the measure, according to the Colorado Secretary of State's website.

Polling on Colorado's Amendment 65
No public polls have been released yet.

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