Guest opinion: Montana should shed light on dark money

2013-02-25T00:00:00Z 2013-04-04T11:41:04Z Guest opinion: Montana should shed light on dark moneyBy JIM PETERSON The Billings Gazette
February 25, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Montanans are tired of dirty politics, nasty mudslinging campaigns and personal attacks. I believe they’re even more disgusted with the fact that many of these tactics are hidden inside dark money organizations that are unaccountable to the voting public.

In addition Montana voters need to know that their voice counts most, and we need to send a strong message to the backers of dark money organizations that our elections and our government is not for sale.

Our form of government works best when it operates in the full light of day. That means full disclosure, transparency, reporting and accountability in campaigns and elections on an individual basis, hence the acronym TRACE Act. Everyone who comes to Helena to serve the citizens of this great state owes it to their constituents and the greater state interest to deliberate openly, honestly and with the highest level of integrity.

We can and should have honest disagreements on policy. That strain of an honest debate makes us stronger, and it’s what allows us to rise above other forms of government. The destabilizing threat comes not from honest disagreement, but from anonymous hidden agendas from special interests.

I have introduced the TRACE Act to guarantee Montanans that our government is open, accessible and accountable to them. I’m not interested in limiting anyone’s ability to voice their opinion, actively participate in the election process, or vigorously advocate for an issue. But I do think we should all have the same opportunity to participate on a level playing field.

An individual taxpayer or landowner should have the same ability to participate as a corporation, an association, or a special interest group. By raising contribution limits, we allow candidates to focus on their constituents within their districts rather than having to seek outside campaign financing to run effective campaigns. By holding every individual, organization and corporation to those same limits, we limit undue influence from any particular special interest.

I’m very pleased with the bipartisan support for this bill, and quite refreshingly to be joined by our new governor, Steve Bullock, to forge a new policy direction to protect and enhance the ability of every Montanan to play a meaningful role in our government.

Sen. Jim Peterson, R-Buffalo, is the former president and majority leader of the Montana Senate.

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