There’s been some talk online in the past few days about Greg Gianforte’s first reported campaign expenditures, including $1.50 for parking in Helena, but the most interesting item has to be who Gianforte is paying for legal advice. He’s made two payments to the Bopp Law Firm of Terre Haute, Indiana. That’s an incredibly telling expenditure for someone who has been under the cloud of accusation for running a stealth campaign for governor and who will likely work with a Republican Party that tried to buy the 2012 gubernatorial election with a last-minute $500,000 dark money donation.
James Bopp is most famous for his work leading to the Citizens United decision, which has led to the Wild West of corporate campaign expenditures that has made a mockery of American elections. He also defended Montana’s Western Tradition Partnership at the US Supreme Court when the Montana Supreme Court held that the organization should be punished for campaign finance violations.
The Bopp Law Firm truly is the preeminent law firm in the Republican fight against campaign finance laws. Bopp is so committed to the fight that, on his own web site, he includes this quote about himself:
Bopp has a knack for finding provisions in laws that have been taken for granted and violate individual liberties. He has almost singlehandedly obliterated many of the nation’s relatively modest restrictions on corporate election spending. Bopp’s landmark case, a fight that took 8 years, did not deter Bopp from overturning McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation. He devised the legal strategy that led the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, which upended decades of precedent and unleashed super PACs upon the land.
Critics are even stronger in their observations about Bopp. Mother Jones writes:
Bopp is leading “a very broad-based litigation assault being waged against both state and federal campaign-finance laws,” says Tara Malloy, associate counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit legal organization. Reformers see Bopp as using his clients—often small, mission-driven organizations—to widen loopholes in the law that end up benefiting wealthy corporations and their political allies. Arn Pearson, the vice president for programs at Common Cause, calls him “a straw man for the Republican Party for their effort to dismantle campaign-finance laws.”
Bopp also represents those who want to codify discrimination in the United States, prominently featuring an amicus brief he wrote defending traditional marriage, a brief that argued deeply sexist claims about the nature of men and women before arguing that effort to legalize same sex marriage was merely a plot to destroy marriage as a whole:
Shifting the same-sex marriage rhetoric from abolitionist to assimilationist was and remains part of a strategy by many to undermine marriage while claiming to protect it.
It seems that Mr. Gianforte should have to answer some questions about his choice of attorney. Given that Montanans overwhelmingly support campaign finance limits, oppose Citizens United, and believe that candidates should have to disclose campaign donations, why did Gianforte choose this law firm? And why, if he wants to disassociate himself with his previous remarks defending discrimination, did he choose a leading firm in the fight to codify unequal marriage laws?
It’s fascinating that Mr. Gianforte, a planner and strategist by his account and the observation of others, has already engaged this law farm as part of his run, and his motivation for doing so seems like yet another question the undeclared/declared candidate should answer.