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Tom’s Opinion on Citizens United and I-166

Tom Egelhoff, Host of Open for Business, Saurdays 11AM to 2PM

“Corporations ARE people!” That is an indisputable fact. No matter what any legislation regarding campaign contributions says, corporations are now, and always have been, people. Citizens United had no bearing on the legal definition of a corporation. The name “corporation” comes from the Latin word “corpus” that means “body.” Perhaps the term for a dead body, “corpse,” might make that definition clearer.

A corporation is one kind of company, which means an entity that has a separate legal personality from the people who carry out its activities or have rights to its property.” The alleged, oldest commercial corporation in the world, the Stora Kopparberg mining community in Falun, Sweden, obtained a charter from King Magnus Eriksson in 1347. There is evidence of various types of corporations dating back to Roman times.

Can Corporations Be Charged With Crimes Like People Can?

“Citizens United” was not a ruling that declared corporations people. Corporations have always been people, and they will continue to be defined as people, regardless of what the Montana courts or legislation does or doesn’t do.

Corporations can be sued like people, they can be charged with crimes like people, and they can be fined or jailed like people. Bernie Madoff, CEO in jail. Jeffery Skillings, Enron CEO, serving 24 years in prison. Exxon Corporation and Exxon Shipping pled guilty to federal “criminal charges” in connection with the March 24, 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. You can check out the Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the Decade” here.

Citizens United and Campaign Contributions

Citizens United did not change existing campaign laws. It is still illegal for corporations, or unions, to donate directly to a candidate or political party in a federal election. Individuals, and that would include CEO’s, and union leaders, have always been able to donate their own personal funds to candidates or parties, based on federal and state contribution guidelines.

I’m curious why various groups that are so up in arms about corporate donations fail to dump unions in the same barrel? Looking at the top political donors between 1989 and 2012” it’s plain to see that unions dominate campaign donations, while corporations are far down the list. The Supreme Court ruling against SEIU last week is another way of leveling the playing field. SEIU was collecting excess dues from members for political speech.

After the election, the employees who did not want their dues used politically, could request a refund, and become blacklisted by the union. And in those states, where union membership is a condition of employment, California in this particular case, few opted out. Imagine the outcry if a corporation tried something similar with their employees. The press would have a field day with that story.

What Effect Would I-166 Have on The Citizens of Montana?

First of all, regardless of what laws are passed, groups from both parties are always going to find a way to funnel money to the candidate, or party of their choice. Cash doesn’t leave a trail. That’s the down side of I-166 it invites corruption rather than cleaning it up. Only non-profits are not required to report their donor lists.

My problem with this piece of proposed legislation is what it means to the voter in Montana. Since we are not a Right-to-Work state, union money will pour into our state to support Democrats because unions are no longer needed in the private sector and have moved into the public sector. (See the top donor list above).

We saw overwhelming evidence of that in Wisconsin. When the dust cleared, and the “reported contributions” were tallied, monies collected, both in and out of state, for both parties, was nearly equal. There is nothing wrong with that. Money to support a candidate is good.

Secondly, and more importantly, corporate and union, donations to PAC’s would allow an average Montanan, with virtually no money of his or her own, to be able to finance a political campaign which would be almost impossible before Citizens United.

Corporate or union backing would let “Joe Six Pack” compete on a level playing field with an incumbent with a powerful campaign network. What’s wrong with that? Party politics. I want my group to be able to donate, without restriction, but not the other guy. The Supreme Court simply leveled the playing field with SEIU and Citizens United. Both unions and corporations are being forced to play by the same rules.

Some Final Thoughts

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I don’t believe it’s possible to buy an election in the United States of America. If your votes for sale then please let me know where I can pick up my check. I could use a couple of extra bucks for gas. If your candidate’s vote is for sale; then shame on you for supporting him or her. That’s an extremely selfish act on your part, and a federal crime on theirs.

If money is all it takes to get elected, then why vote? Why not just elect whoever can raise the most money and be done with it. No more “hanging chads” or Electoral College nonsense. I don’t want a good Montanan, who has good ideas, to sit on the sidelines due to lack of money.

My responsibility, as a voter, is to select the best person I can, regardless of party affiliation, and put them in office with my vote — not my dollar. I believe that’s what Citizens United will allow Montanans to do. But, if elections are truly for sale, then we can sell our vote and all stay home, drink beer and check out re-runs of Gilligan’s Island. Guess I won’t see you at the polls in November — unless your votes not for sale either.

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