Independent Record: Limits on spending are reasonable

We were already anticipating an eight-figure outpouring of difficult-to-trace, out-of-state money being spent on Montana’s U.S. Senate election this fall, so in that sense perhaps last week’s ruling by the United States Supreme Court further opening the floodgates to corporate spending here won’t change much.

We applauded the Montana Supreme Court last month for its 5-2 rebuke of Citizens United, even as we acknowledged that the U.S. high court would likely overrule our state’s bench. And last week, the U.S. Supreme Court put a hold on the Montana Supreme Court’s Dec. 30 ruling while it awaits an appeal from American Tradition Partnership, the group that brought the case against Montana’s corporate spending ban.

The potential for the high court to hear an appeal will give Montana one more chance to make its case for the ill effects of corporate election spending, but the makeup of the Supreme Court majority hasn’t changed since Citizens United, which limits our optimism that our state law will be upheld.

Make no mistake, the 2010 Citizens United decision allowing corporate spending is already having profound effects on the electoral process. Just look how the Republican presidential nominating campaign is playing out across the country. Shadowy Super PACs are dumping millions of dollars into one state after another, mostly in negative advertising that often doesn’t even mention the candidate the PAC supports by name. It’s no way to choose a leader.

Meanwhile, some pundits predict that total spending on Montana’s 2012 Senate race could reach $20 million — an outrageous sum for a grand total of around 500,000 votes…

In a separate interview with our editorial board, Jon Tester, meanwhile, said he would amend the Constitution to bring back the accountability and limits that have been lost to Citizens United, and he’s since signed on as a co-sponsor of two slightly different proposed amendments that would do just that.

We’re with Tester on this one. Corporations aren’t people, and limits and regulations on corporate spending and accountability are completely reasonable. Calling for a constitutional amendment may smack of an election year headline grab, but the fact is, Tester is on the right side of this issue.

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