The Gazette asked Montana candidates for U.S. House: Will the recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions on campaign finance law in McCutcheon and Citizens United have a mostly positive or mostly negative effect on your congressional race?
Elsie Arntzen: Republican
I am running a made-in-Montana campaign, so I’m focused on traveling around our state and talking about the issues that really matter to Montanans. Our campaign will abide by whatever rules are set by the Supreme Court and the Federal Elections Commission, but I do not expect these recent rulings to have a major effect on the race. It’s important that our courts protect the right to freedom of speech, even when wealthy liberal forces organize to suppress these basic First Amendment rights for certain groups and individuals. President Obama and D.C. Democrats continue to ignore our Constitution and disregard our fundamental First and Second Amendment rights, so we must send an effective U.S. representative to Washington to be a strong voice for real Montana values.
Elsie Arntzen of Billings is a state senator who is on leave from teaching elementary school.
John Driscoll: Democrat
My wife and I are funding my exploration for the Democrat primary nomination with less than $5,000 of our own funds. We have complete control over the fact that we will refuse to accept campaign contributions from corporations, directly or indirectly, during the general election campaign. Should my opponents in both the primary and general election races choose to accept corporate contributions, directly or indirectly through corporate lobbyists or party channels, that’s the business of Montana’s voters. I’ll only add that we intend to start our general election campaign on June 11, 2014, one hundred and three years from the start of the non-partisan Montana People’s Power League, which gave us the Corrupt Practices Act, forbidding corporate campaign contributions, and the Direct Primary Law, giving Montana voters, rather than Montana political party bosses, the right to say who should advance to the General Election Ballot.
John Driscoll of Helena retired from the Montana National Guard and is a former Montana public service commissioner.
Mike Fellows: Libertarian
This latest decision will have a positive impact on my campaign. The federal candidate contribution limits of $2,600 in the primary and $2,600 in the general will still be in place. Since donors will have more money to spend, smaller campaigns like mine may end up with more donations. I trust the voters to see past those 30-second commercials and elect a candidate working for less government and more liberty.
Mike Fellows of Missoula is Montana Libertarian Party chairman and a University of Montana graduate.
John Lewis: Democrat
There’s way too much money in politics. And, I’m concerned about how it will affect our democracy. People and their ideas should win elections, not special interests and their cash. If you look at 2012, a record $50 million was spent on the U.S. Senate race. Over the course of two years, Montanans were subjected to an average of 13 political ads on TV each day. I think about the people I met volunteering for Meals on Wheels in Billings. It’s tough to understand how so much can be spent on politics when we still have seniors who are going hungry. While Citizens United also unleashed unlimited and anonymous campaign contributions, Montanans still expect to meet candidates face to face. Voters respect an honest discussion of values. That’s why I’m putting in a lot of windshield time, traveling the state and doing my part to make sure money doesn’t drown out the voices of Montanans.
John Lewis of Helena is married with two young children. He previously worked for Max Baucus.
Matt Rosendale: Republican
I think the most important thing to focus on is the Supreme Court’s decision to protect freedom of speech. It is absolutely vital to protect the right of individuals, and groups of individuals, who share the same concerns to support or oppose any issue that they desire.
To set arbitrary limits on these groups, or individuals, does in fact infringe on their right to free speech. As to whether this will have a mostly negative or mostly positive effect on this race, I believe that protecting the rights of our citizens is always a good thing and to the end, that is what we as elected officials have been charged with. So yes, that is positive.
Matt Rosendale of Glendive is a state senator and real estate developer.
Corey Stapleton: Republican
The backbone of my campaign is financed by smaller donations from ordinary Montanans. I don't think any type of so-called "finance reform" has much effect on my personal campaign. I'm pretty jaded when it comes to believing the U.S. Supreme Court or lawmakers will ever effectively reduce the influence of money in our elections. The best we can hope for is real-time accountability and disclosure.
Corey Stapleton of Billings is a former state senator and former U.S. Navy officer who works as a financial adviser.
Drew Turiano: Republican
I think that the recent Supreme Court decision on campaign finance law in relation to Citizens United will mostly have a positive effect in politics. I don't believe we should have many restrictions when it comes to donating to political campaigns. I think that as long as we know where the money comes from it's no one's business who's donating where.
The only thing I'm against is dark money entering the equation. But as long as dark money groups come into the light so the public knows their identities, I'm in favor of opening up the process more like Citizens United did.
Drew Turiano of Helena is a real estate investor.
Ryan Zinke: Republican
The court decision has no effect on our campaign. Our campaign is supported by thousands of Montana families and individuals who believe that American exceptionalism can be restored. I fully support full disclosure of all sources of campaign financing.
Ryan Zinke of Whitefish is a former state senator and former U.S. Navy SEAL who heads a consulting firm.