Montana Politics Steve Bullock

Montana Politicians Respond to Supreme Court Ruling on Campaign Donations

On occasion, no commentary is needed. One merely needs to read what politicians had to say about a breaking news story to learn everything you need to know about their values. Today’s Supreme Corporate ruling affirming the right of corporations to buy Montana elections is one instructive example.

From Rick Hill, GOP Candidate for Governor:

I don’t have any comment until it hits the news. Until Cronkite and UPI cover it, it isn’t news. What the hell is a tweeter?*

From Steve Bullock, current Attorney General and next Governor:

I am very disappointed in what the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision means for state and local elections in Montana– and for our entire nation.

From Senator Jon Tester:

“The court’s supposed to be full of smart, well-thought-out people, but they rolled back Montana 100 years, back to the time literally when millionaires and billionaires bought elections, and they did it under the guise of free speech, which is crazy. This is really a sad day in American democracy.”

From Representative Dennis Rehberg, after cashing another check from Citizens United:

“Free speech, including political speech, is guaranteed by the First Amendment no matter what state you live in,” he said.  “For Montanans, this means free speech is protected equally if you are a member of a labor union, a private business or a political party.”

And from Governor Schweitzer and Lt. Governor John Bohlinger:


It seems relatively clear. If you believe that the founders believed that the “natural rights of man” apply to corporations, vote for a Republican. If not, vote for a Democrat.

*It’s possible I made this one up.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.


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    • “If he was so concerned about upholding Montana’s law, why didn’t he refuse the money from corporate financial sources so as to not corrupt his position?”

      Because he would likely lose. And frankly, removing the appearance of corruption from a losing politician is no victory at all.

      • PW, I just love the justification for politicians clearly exposed in their corruption, like Tester, that it’s OK to be a little dirty to accomplish a wider political agenda. IMHO the problem is not the political ads bought by monied interests, I don’t know of anyone who is swayed by such propaganda, but the politicians who are bought to support certain interests. The problem needs working from the reception end. For example, a senator like Tester who sits on the Banking Committee should not be allowed to receive contributions from the very sources that he is responsible for overseeing. The problem is in the governing, not the campaigning. We can turn a blind eye to the ads, but we can’t escaped the effects of special interest governing.

        • Craig,

          Your effort to pretend that you don’t just carry water for Rehberg and the Republicans would be much more effective if you ever used an example criticizing them.

          I assume you oppose Rehberg receiving money from anything related to Labor, Health and Human Service, Education, Energy, and Water, too, but for some reason you never mention that.

          Once again, I offer a simple challenge: name one time you’ve ever criticized a Republican for the very same things you accuse Democrats of all the time. I’ve never read a single comment like that.

          Just admit it. Despite your facade or delusion of independence, you’ll defend Rehberg no matter what he does and assume the worst about Senator Tester no matter what he does. Quit pretending otherwise.

          • Don, note that I said, “…the politicians who are bought to support certain interests.” Last I checked “politicians” is a wide net and indiscriminate of political party.

            • It just doesn’t hold water, Craig. As Pogie has already pointed out, while you used the term “politicians”, the politicians you ALWAYS use as examples are Democrats. It is hard to believe that you are NOT just “carrying water” (I love that phrase…), for the Republicans.

              As far as the meat of the matter, IMNSHO – NO corporation, agency, union, or other fictional “person” should be allowed to donate to campaigns. Campaigns should be financed completely by voter donations. Look at the money flowing into the political races this year in light of the CU decision. It is ludicrus to believe that the BILLIONS being spent are not corruptive and destructive.

              Did Tester accept special interest money? Of course he did. Show me a single candidate that hasn’t – from either party. Is it part and parcel of the problem? Of course it is. No one is arguing that. Is it hypocritical? Of course it is. Again, no argument. Could Tester win and attempt to correct the problem without the money? Of course he couldn’t.. and that is what Polish Wolf was saying. Are you honestly telling us that Tester could win without the money?

            • The big question that you are NOT asking that needs to be answered is…

              Which candidate (Tester or Rehberg) is more likely to try to address the campaign financing issue? The answer is self evident, Craig.

  • If the words coming out of the mouths of politicians were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas. Who cares what they utter in public, or via press spokespeople? No content! (I get the Hill snark, btw.)

    If JC is onto something, and I respect his intelligence, Bullock had no desire to win this case. If that is the case, then it merely reinforces my perception that Democrats put themselves in leadership positions with the specific I tension of not fighting. They are false flag warriors.

      • I never would have thought such a thing about Bullock not knowing much of the man. But reading JC and the complaints that had arisen about his case as presented before the court did indeed fit with other perceptions i have of Democrats who refuse to fight, don’t fight hard, and manage to lose even when losing is hard. It’s not like there is any groundswell in the Party to undo CU – far from it. There doesn’t appear to be leadership on the issue, as usual.

        Bullock was obliged to defend the state in this case, but be was not obliged to do a good job. As I’ve so often said, Having Democrats fighting for you is like sitting atop a bowl of Jello. The funniest line I heard over these past two years was delivered with a straight face by a news reader who said that “Democratic organizers had arrived in Madison” during the uprising. Probably to tell folks to start compromising.

        Way to go team. CU stands now, settled law. And as PW says below, in typical Democratic fashion … “yeah, we’ll you know, probably a good thing to lose that case…” or words to that effect.

        • ““yeah, we’ll you know, probably a good thing to lose that case…” or words to that effect.”

          Same five justices, Mark. They were long odds from the start. Of course it would have been better to win it. But it would be better to win it on its own merits, rather than simply win an exception for Montana. That was the route Bullock took.

          And I don’t think you’ve fully considered any position here except your own (shocker!). What if Bullock had tried the 11th amendment argument? Well, for one thing it wouldn’t work. The court decided over a hundred years ago that an Attorney General of a state could be sued if he or she was defending an unconstitutional action. The court decided two years ago that limits on corporate political speech were unconstitutional.

          And you refuse to consider the ramifications if it did work. If five members of the Court agreed, the court would not be reversing its position that money spent on speech is protected as speech or that corporations are protected as individuals with equality under the law. It would be reversing the position taken in 1908 that the Supreme Court can force States to act in compliance with the constitution. It would have to remove, from its jurisdiction, any action brought against a State regarding freedom of speech and equal protection, because that’s what this would set a precedent for.

          That’s extremely unlikely. But even for Bullock to rely on the jurisdictional claim would be paramount to accepting and advocating that point of view. He doesn’t believe in that view of the constitution, and neither do his constituents.

          • Blessed are the cheese makers. It’s a given that this court is going to reach for right wing interpretations of our deeply flawed constitution. That’s not at issue. What was at issue was a highly democratic interpretation of the right of state government to regulate politics within its boundaries. He’s that case been won, the door would have opened for other states to do as well.

            That’s a good thing. Your argument is basically slippery slope, and fallacious for that reason.

            By the way, we have evidence in the four people who voted for Bullock’s weak argument that they are more progressive than theother five, but not proof. until one of them is the deciding vote, we do not have proof.

              • I am curious, Larry. If CU has left us ‘no choice’ save considering a constitutional convention *because* our politics can now be purchased what assurance is their that money can’t purchase our new Constitution? That is not intended at all to be a flippant question. Consider that our current Constitution was written by moneyed interests largely for the benefit of moneyed interests (property owners and in large part slave holders.) The fear of CU is that money will overwhelm elections with modern methods of propaganda. Like it or not, a CC is just another form of election. I’m certain you see the dilemma.

                • Excuse me if it might appear that I was being devious or underhanded, but in truth, I don’t accept the inevitability of the postulate. I don’t think our politics can now be purchased, any more than soft-money could do so 15 years ago. All this talk of ‘sheeple’ is so much babble. Yes, corporations now can run oppo-ads against candidates without legal issue, but consider a few things.
                  1) The manner in which people are getting information has changed, and continues to do so. ‘Commercials’ are becoming less relevant with each passing year. Without writing a thesis on the point, which I simply don’t have the time to, minorities are adopting technologies at a significantly faster rate than a) conservative whites and b) conservative propaganda outlets can adapt. Both of those favor the 99%. If one also considers that (despite Tokarski’s proclamations) people are increasing avoiding traditional outlets for propaganda, those are good signs.
                  2) Future Supreme Courts can and have dramatically changed so-called “established law”. The Dredd Scott decision comes to mind. But that does require a voting public less interested in the horserace of the Presidency and more interest in what the President can do. By all means, keep harping on SCOTUS appointments. That’s a terrific path to overturning CU.
                  3) Congress may not be able to limit the money (which is now free speech) but they may be able to limit the falshood of the messages. One can stand on a street corner screaming “Kenyon Socialist coke-using jungle monkey!”. But the Congress controls the people’s airwaves, as much as the FCC does. A fair use act is not out of line. But that might require a people’s Congress. See the above.
                  I don’t think this is hopeless. As if I needed to explain, that might be the problem I have with those who do.

                • Your palpations of the body politic seem to be sensing a stronger pulse than these fingers can locate: Chenza at Court. The Court of Silence.

                • Rod is correct here, by the way. A CC will not overcome the problem of concentrated wealth and money in politics. In fact, it might open the door for a true coup d’état. That route is not an answer.

                  BTW Rod, I have been banned at Cowgirl, so I am unable to tell you that your most recent comments there are quite silly and useless.

                • Oh, you do. And you might wonder, with all your arrogance, swearing and tripe, why you go on uninterrupted there. That’s the advantage of adhering to group consensus, and having your mind right, lackey. You never think. You recite.

                  Have I ever mentioned that I know the meaning of words, and use them when I mean to use them to mean what they mean?

                • Please do try to control yourself. I really want to put this at your message below, but we’ve reached the max number of sub-threads.

                  I’ve done quite well ignoring you lately, but if you can’t control yourself, we might just have to add another blog to your banned list.

                  I’d honestly rather not do that.

                  Please understand, though, if I do, it won’t be evidence of your superior argumentation or the correctness of your position. It will just be exhaustion.

                • I’ll be sad to see Mark go. I lack Don’s maturity. I love to argue with Mark, and part of me feels unfulfilled knowing he is saying outrageous things and no on is calling him on it. But it seems he’s gotten himself banned on every blog he visits. I would go to his blog, but tolerating that site long enough to engage in discussion would require a steep descent into alcoholism.

                  But in case you read this Mark 0 we don’t mind your content. It’s the fact that you continue to repeat it without ever stopping to substantiate your basic premise or really add anything to the discussion grows tiring. Your comments could be replaced by a well programmed bot – grab a few key words and then repeat the same thesis – the parties are the same, democrats are worse than republicans, historical behaviors and present actions of the parties be damned.

            • Like I said before, Mark – the court didn’t have to accept jurisdiction over this case. They chose to. That right there indicates that they will go with the 100 year precedent over whatever overly optimistic theory over the 11th amendment y’all might put forward.

              • I don’t think you’re seeing a bigger picture here, PW. We’re debating a tattered document with the unspoken backdrop that it’s OK for nine mullahs to hand down our laws arbitrarily. We’re undemocratic per se.

                You are splitting hairs in my opinion. Yes, the US constitution is the law of the land, and yes, they cannot let the fifty states go running off willy nilly.

                That said, analyze what you are saying here: A monstrous reach, an open power grab in CU, was challenged by a state, as it should have been. The state AG needed to put forth every argument available to overturn the overreach, and you are saying no, they need to be timid, because to win on impure grounds sets a bad precedent.

                It is the need, the reflexive timidity, that turns me off on Democrats. I mentioned cheese makers because right after that line in The Life of Brian, a prototypical fool intellectualized the use of cheese makers as an example of merchants by Jesus, knowing the mind of Jesus. You reminded me of that because you accept the bad decision and the refusal to fight hard by Bullock and have intellectualized it.

                Fight, dammit! Stand for things that don’t involve compromise, accommodation, conciliation, and losing.

    • I think any thinking person would agree that the case wasn’t worth winning if winning meant removing SCOTUS’s authority to enforce the constitution on the States.

        • Such ridicule as this is a group enforcement mechanism, nothing more. You, whoever you are, are chastising me for leaving group boundaries. I might ask on what basis you gauge your “tin foil” hat judgment, but frankly I know what it is: Reliance on authority figures, and adherence to group consensus. I fail to do either, and this causes you discomfort, and so you lash out. Lacking substance, fearing discomfort, you resort to ridicule.

          Thanks for the object lesson in group conformity mechanisms.

      • Winning did not mean removing SCOTUS’ authority to enforce the constitution on the states. Where do you ever come up with this stuff? Winning would have been enforcing states rights under the 11th Amendment — which don’t forget is part of the Constitution. Or are you one of those who only think that some parts of the Constitution — like the first 10 Bill of Rights — are worth upholding?

        And of what value is losing a Constitutional battle if the effect is to return to a state of affairs where corruption of the judiciary — not to mention political races — is ok?

        With corporations solidly in control of our judiciary and our political process, there is no longer any reasonable scenario where “SCOTUS’s authority to enforce the constitution on the States” is a meaningful statement. SCOTUS enforced the Constitution on the states by giving us Citizen’s United. Want more of that? Because that’s just what you got.

        • “Winning did not mean removing SCOTUS’ authority to enforce the constitution on the states. Where do you ever come up with this stuff? ”
          “Winning would have been enforcing states rights under the 11th Amendment ”

          It’s the same thing, JC. Did you follow the links on my post? They are informative. I’m not going to pretend I have an innate understanding of all this. But I did look it up. Essentially, the States do have rights under the 11th amendment – the right not to be sued. However, the only way to force a state to comply with the constitution is to sue them. This would present a very big problem – State courts would, and were for some time, the highest authority to whom the States answered.

          Eventually, however, the Court decided that this did not apply to State officials in violation of the constitution. Now, I realize you’re upset about how the court ruled in this instance. Everyone here is. But denying that the Supreme Court had the jurisdiction to do so cannot be done, rationally, without also denying that the Court had the right to enforce equal protection on the States during the civil rights movement or enforce freedom of religion or protect privacy from state infringement. All of those things fall under the equal protection clause or the first amendment, both of which, rightly or wrongly (actually, who am I kidding? Wrongly) are being cited by SCOTUS in Citizens United.

  • re:Rick Hill: I thought Cronkite was dead..does this mean he never plans on commenting?

    re: Denny: I’m still trying to figure out how free speech wins over corporate puchasing of candidates by funding their campaigns? Never have mastered Denny-speak.

  • I don’t think it’s a ‘win’ for Dems or Republicans.

    It’s not like corporate money isn’t flowing into elections anyway, they’re just going about it different ways at this time.

    Does anybody really think that Exxon, Conoco-Phillips, and BP, for example, are going to hand-pick candidates sympathetic to their business needs, and fund billions of dollars into them so they can change the political climate, in Montana? No way.

    • Eric says, “Does anybody really think that Exxon, Conoco-Phillips, and BP, for example, are going to hand-pick candidates sympathetic to their business needs, and fund billions of dollars into them so they can change the political climate, in Montana? No way.”

      Yes way. Maybe not billions but millions. Copper Kings did it all the time until the Montana campaign finance law of 1912.

      • It is worth while to keep in mind that in 1912 the overwhelming majority of Montanans worked for a very few companies (Amalgamated Copper/Anaconda Copper Mining Company being the biggest.) The law was passed not only because William A. Clark purchased a Senate seat, but because companies were offering bonuses to people who would vote in company-friendly ways or threaten the employment of those who voted ‘wrongly’. The campaign finance law was only one plank in the effort to break that strangle hold. A very significant other was the rise of union organizing. (Another very significant other was women getting suffrage, but that’s slightly to the side like.)

        The above is worth noting because corporations have already spent massive amounts of money to kill union power, CU being something of a fatal blow, and large employment extraction is the rage for solving the economic woes that Montana doesn’t really have. That right there is exactly the recipe for bringing about the situation that Eric scoffs at.

    • They dont need to hand-pick anyone Eric, there are plenty of inbred uneducated slack jawed corporate boot licker flunkies like your friend and associate James Knox R- Billings/Houston tripping over themselves to enter into politics.

    • No. They choose which of two candidates to support, and flood them with money. Check out Rehberg’s fundraising lately? Extraction companies litter the top ten.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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