In simultaneously striking down a century-old Montana campaign finance law and reaffirming its own 2010 Citizens United ruling, the copnservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that unlimited campaign contributions “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”
But in doing so, the justices actually “ignored this concrete evidence of corruption” that led Montana to enact its limits on campaign spending in the first place, says the chairman of a Senate committee which oversees the judiciary.
Without hearing any arguments in the case, the Supreme Court summarily dismissed a Montana law aimed at limiting the influence of corporations and the super-rich. As it did so, the conservative justices reasserted their Citizens United ruling which two years ago swept away decades of bipartisan limits on campaign finance.
The high court did so on a split 5-4 majority, which actually ignored a significant part of Montana state history, according to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
Montana passed the now-defunct law in response to the so-called “Copper Kings,” a cohort of powerful industrialists in the Big Sky state during the late 19th and early 20 centuries. Indeed, the the Copper Kings were so corrupt that one of them, William Andrews Clark, was found to have been bribing state lawmakers. Clark later died at his home in New York City as one of the 50 most wealthy Americans ever.
Clark reportedly once said, “I never bought a man who wasn’t for sale.”
One description of the Copper Kings reads: “They used their fabulous wealth to buy courts, newspapers, politicians, banks, police, and anything and anyone that could help them or hinder their opponents. To get what they wanted, their money flowed like snowmelt throughout the mile-high city and eventually reached the nation’s capital. All the while the miners toiled thousands of feet below ground in tunnels dug with blasting powder, picks, and shovels.”
And just as in Montana a century ago, Monday’s Supreme Court ruling will allow “corporate megaphones [to enable the] drowning out [of] the voices of hardworking Americans,” Leahy says.
“Montana’s law was enacted 100 years ago when Montana’s citizens got fed up with the massive bribery and corruption that enabled the ‘Copper Kings’ to dominate not only elections but all political debate in Montana. In today’s decision, the Court ignored this concrete evidence of corruption that led the State of Montana to enact its law a century ago, as well as precedent that has long been on the books in many states finding no constitutional concern with laws limiting corporate contributions,” says Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Like Montana, Vermont is a small state with people who take seriously their civic duty and cherish their vital role in the democratic process. It is easy to imagine the wave of corporate money we are seeing spent on elections around the country lead to corporate interests flooding the airwaves with election ads and transforming even local elections,” he adds. “Today’s decision by the Court deals another severe blow to the rights of Vermonters and all Americans to speak to each other and, crucially, to actually be heard in public discourse.”