The 2018 election = obscene amounts of money

The TV spots are already up. Social media are cranking out pop-ups. There was even an ill-advised print ad for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Troy Downing in the Missoula Independent.

It’s all about the money and who can raise the most. Policy, experience, character … who cares?

MTN’s Mike Dennison has a story titled, “Don’t look now – but here comes Election Year 2018 in Montana.” He writes about the $8 million Democratic Sen. Jon Tester raised on top of the $5.4 million he already has in the bank. Tester is going to need it since two of his potential Republican opponents are multi-millionaires: Downing and Matt Rosendale. Downing has already loaned his campaign $350,000.

Then there’s the U.S. House race with dark money loving Republican incumbent Greg Gianforte up against one of six, at this point, Democratic challengers. Since January 1, 2017, Gianforte has loaned his campaigns $1.5 million. He threw $5.5 million of his own money into the 2016 gubernatorial race.

Add millions of dollars in super PAC money, most of it dark, and you have a good chunk of change. (A quick aside: put that kind of cash in place of state budget cuts and you won’t have to throw some pregnant teenager out of her group home.)

Don’t expect to see any kind of forward-thinking legislation — environmental, health care, taxation, you name it — until we get big money out electoral politics. We used to have contribution and spending limits but the first blow to those came in our Bicentennial year, 1976, with the Supreme Court’s Buckley v. Valeo decision. Then, according to the Sunlight Foundation:

…the Supreme Court landed a one-two punch on the American political finance system with its more recent decisions in Citizens United and McCutcheon, opening the door to secret and nearly unlimited donations.

The electorate should be up in arms. Nowhere else in Democratic societies worldwide is this pay-to-play system as prevalent. In some countries, like Japan, candidates are prohibited from buying TV time — wouldn’t that be sweet!

Montanans should be particularly aware of the influence of money in politics, having had legislatures purchased by the Copper Kings at the turn of the last century.

Of course, the other effect is diminished participation: the average citizen feeling their vote is meaningless compared to the influence of million dollar contributors, or they’re just disgusted by the onslaught of sleazy, negative advertising that paints all candidates as scurvy dogs and come election day, they just stay home.

Both parties are guilty of accepting special interest contributions but at least the Democrats make some efforts at campaign finance reform. Until the voters demand that reform be a top priority, and then get candidates elected who will advance it — and who will also confirm reform-minded Supreme Court justices — we’re screwed.

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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About the author

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.


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  • Pete, I never thought we would see this kind of money spent on elections.

    Never in a million years.

    Look at 2016 – the Dems (the party of the rich) spent $1.2 Billion dollars trying to buy the White House for Bill & Hillary, compared to the GOP spending half that on the Donalds winning campaign. Unbelievable.

    The Montana Dems are going to pump $15 million bucks into Jon Testers race.

    I’d rather see both parties get together and build 10 homeless shelters in Montana with the cash.

    I don’t think obscene is a strong enough word !

  • Pete,
    Any idea why the 4 posts from you, James Conner, Greg Strandberg and me disappeared from Nathan Kosted’s “Tax Hike Scam Exposed: Montanans Plan Statewide Events/Protests”???

    Is it a technical glitch or is Kosted censoring posts?

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