Guest opinion: Citizens United created 'extraordinary occasion' for amendment

2013-01-20T00:05:00Z Guest opinion: Citizens United created 'extraordinary occasion' for amendmentBy. MAX BAUCUS United States senator The Billings Gazette
January 20, 2013 12:05 am  • 

At the top of our state capital building in Helena sits a beautiful copper dome. Nearly a century ago, that copper dome wasn’t just for decoration. It was a symbol of the copper barons and their ultimate power to decide who represented the people of Montana.

While miners risked their lives working thousands of feet below the earth, the Copper Kings lived high on the hog. Corporations were literally buying elections.

So Montanans took democracy into their own hands and passed laws to keep our elections off the market and in the hands of the people.

But three years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the premise of those laws in the Citizens United court case. In the aftermath of that decision, our democracy is once again under attack.

That is why in July of 2010, I introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision and restore Montana’s right to regulate corporate and labor spending in our elections. I will introduce that constitutional amendment once again in the new Congress – and again and again in every Congress until our elections are back in the hands of the people, where they belong.

This past election cycle brought unprecedented amounts of special interest money into Montana, and plenty of ugliness with it. But Montanans also took democracy into their owns hands with a ballot initiative and won an important victory in the fight to restore the people’s voice in our democracy. Nearly 75 percent of Montanans supported a ballot initiative in favor of a constitutional amendment targeting the problems caused by Citizens United. Once again, the people of Montana rose up to say “We are not for sale.”

We still have a long fight ahead of us. Amending the Constitution is not an easy process. It shouldn’t be. As James Madison wrote in the Federalist papers amending the Constitution should be done only on “great and extraordinary occasions.”

But I believe this is one of those occasions. The people of Montana believe this is one of those occasions. And Congress owes it to the people we work for to fully study, discuss and debate the merits of a constitutional amendment.

As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a president and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”

 

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