U.S. Senate candidates differ on role of money in Montana elections

2014-05-14T00:00:00Z 2014-05-16T14:43:05Z U.S. Senate candidates differ on role of money in Montana elections The Billings Gazette
May 14, 2014 12:00 am

As part of The Billings Gazette’s efforts to inform voters about their Primary Election choices, the newspaper invited all Montana candidates for U.S. Senate and U.S. House to answer a series of questions. The third of four installments is printed today. Previous candidate responses may be viewed with today’s opinions at billingsgazette.com.

The Gazette asked: 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?

Dirk Adams: Democrat

The decisions will have a negative impact on my congressional race. Big Money is pouring in for my opponent John Walsh from big tobacco, the Chinese, and a number of PACs.

My candidacy is about strengthening the middle class, and as their economic power is ongoingly under attack by our tax code, corporate bailouts, and cleaning up corporate messes, their political power comes under attack, too. Recent decisions by our Supreme Court grant more power to the highest bidder to drive public policy and sanction the selling of our system of governance. I am committed to ending this attack on our democracy.

Dirk Adams of Wilsall is an attorney and rancher.

John Bohlinger: Democrat

It is not the impact on my race that matters, it is the impact on the democracy that should concern us. When First Amendment rights of free speech were given to corporations, unlimited amounts of money was made available to political candidates, and it is my belief money has a corrupting influence on campaigns. When I am elected to the U.S. Senate, I will introduce a Constitutional Amendment that will declare only human beings are entitled to First Amendment rights, and I will also introduce legislation to shorten the campaign period.

John Bohlinger of Helena served as lieutenant governor as a Democrat and served in the state Legislature as a Republican from Billings.

Champ Edmunds: Republican

I believe it will be neutral as it affects all candidates from all parties equally.

Champ Edmunds of Missoula is a state representative.

Steve Daines: Republican

Montanans are frustrated by the cost of elections and amount of money in campaigns— but we also know that free speech for all is critical to a free society. I respect the role that the Supreme Court holds in protecting our First Amendment rights and believe that this decision was made with that protection in mind.

Steve Daines of Bozeman is serving his first term in the U.S. House.

Roger Roots: Libertarian

Both decisions are steps in the right direction but did not go far enough. All campaign finance laws infringe on freedom of the press. It is a national disgrace that current members of the Senate, such as Senators Tester and Walsh, are seeking to amend the Constitution by limiting the First Amendment in response to these cases. The corporate form is a business model for the little guy, and it allows poor people to compete with the rich by pooling resources. Tester’s and Walsh’s proposed amendments — despite what these men claim — would have the effect of giving a monopoly on news, radio and TV publishing to the richest individuals. Having said this, I don't think either decision will have much impact on my race, except that my opponents will be able to raise even more money to suppress the libertarian vote than they have before.

Roger Roots of Livingston is an attorney and college instructor.

John Walsh: Democrat

There is far too much money in politics and much of it secret and non-transparent. The latest ruling gives more opportunities for out-of-state multimillionaires and billionaires and corporations with money to influence our elections.

The day I was sworn into office, Karl Rove’s Super PAC launched negative attacks to try to swift boat my military career. We know they and others like the Koch brothers are gearing up to dump even more money into Montana – just like they did in 2012.

While Congressman Steve Daines doesn’t believe we should overturn Citizens United or McCutcheon, I believe we need to amend the U.S. Constitution so that we can take back our elections from corporate special interests. I do not believe corporations have the same rights as people. I’ve co-sponsored legislation that would allow states and Congress to reform campaign finance laws, which is something that Congressman Daines will not do.

John Walsh of Helena retired from the Montana National Guard was elected lieutenant governor in 2012 and appointed to the U.S. Senate earlier this year.

Susan Cundiff of Missoula filed for the Republican nomination, but did not respond to The Gazette's invitation to answer questions for printing.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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