Lost in the swath of Presidential election coverage that focused on same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization when it didn’t focus on Obamney were initiatives that aimed to end the fallacy of “corporate personhood” in Montana and Colorado. Both initiatives, Montana’s Initiative 166 and Colorado’s Amendment 65, passed by large majorities, leaping to the forefront of a nationwide, grassroots movement led by Move to Amend that seeks to overturn the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in the case of Citizens United v. FEC.
Monatna’s initiative I-166 passed by a 75 to 25 margin and was worded to clarify that money is not “speech” it is “property.” The total vote was 224,679 for the measure and 74,361 opposed. According to the Billings Gazette:
Ballot initiative I-166 establishes a state policy that corporations are not entitled to constitutional rights because they are not human beings, and charges Montana elected and appointed officials, state and federal, to implement that policy. With this policy, the people of Montana establish that there should be a level playing field in campaign spending, in part by prohibiting corporate campaign contributions and expenditures and by limiting political spending in elections…
The amendment determines the state’s policies for corporate spending in elections and aims to curb the power of dark money and Super PACs.
Colorado’s Amendment 65 proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would allow Congress to overturn Citizens United. 1,677,645 Coloradans voted for the proposal and 594,613 voted against it. Denver-based newspaper Westword proclaimed the result a landslide but noted that the decision has little effect in changing campaign finance reform as it is merely a suggestion.
Supporters of campaign finance reform can’t actually push changes at the state level, largely due to the infamous 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which held that under the First Amendment of the federal constitution, government could not restrict independent political expenditures by corporations and unions. In order to implement some kind of limit on spending, then, a constitutional amendment would have to be ratified.
Still, Amendment 65 supporters say the measure can have a tangible impact. They believe its passage is a strong statement from Colorado voters, as well as a useful tool for good-government groups to pressure the Colorado delegation to take up this cause and push forward a federal amendment. That’s a first step in a major effort for reform, they say.
Taken together, these two small victories represent a kick-start to a much larger and longer battle to rein in the role of money in politics.