Tag Archive: Montana

Jun 05 2018

2018 Primary Elections: Eight States Voting Today

Voters in eight states go to the polls today with the main event focused on California where voters choose the top two candidates, regardless of party, who will face off in November. Californians call it the “jungle primary” which was instituted back when Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, was governor. Arnold thought that it would bring …

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May 25 2017

The Rumble In Montana

Update 5/26/2017 01:00 ET Greg Gianforte (R) has been declared the winner of the Montana at-large House seat. Update 20:55 ET: The polls on Montana closed at 10 PM ET. Early results have a very close race with Gianforte with a slight lead 48.3% t0 46% for Quist. Keep in mind most of these votes …

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Jun 26 2012

SCOTUS Ruling Limited Free Speech

The latest session of the US Supreme Court is coming to a close with several decisions handed down since last Thursday, that peaked today with several rulings handed down. The “grand finale” will be this Thursday when the court announces its decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. The media has been focused mostly on today’s ruling that gutted three quarters of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, S.B. 1070. The overturn of a 100-year-old Montana state law that banned corporations in that state from spending any of their corporate cash to support or oppose a candidate or a political party and the ruling that struck out any requirement that life without parole be the mandatory penalty for murder by a minor got second and third billing.

What the media chose to ignore was last Thursday’s 5 -4 decision in Knox v. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) that dealt a blow against public sector labor unions and in favor of employees who are represented by a union but are not members:

The case has three holdings: (1) When a public-sector union imposes a special assessment or dues increase, the union must provide a fresh Hudson notice (the Court’s vote on this issue was seven to two); (2) the union cannot require nonmembers to pay the increased amount unless they opt in by affirmatively consenting (vote of five to four); and (3) the case was not rendered moot by the union’s post-certiorari offer of a full refund (unanimous).

So what you say? Why is this an important ruling? It’s important because it requires Unions to do something that corporations aren’t. It requires unions to get permission from their non-members, who pay fees so they are covered by SEIU-negotiated contracts, before that money can be used for political spending. Instead of the traditional “opt-out”, the now have to “opt-in.” Corporations are not required to get share holders permission to spend millions on a political campaign. This could significantly impact on labor’s ability to fight back against corporations in the political arena. It restricts the union’s First Amendment rights to spend unlimited amounts under the 2010 Citizens United ruling:

“The court’s opinion makes clear its displeasure with 60 years of precedent on the dues issue, which have placed the burden on employees who object (to political spending) to opt out,” said William Gould, who from 1994 to 1998 chaired the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that governs labor relations in the private sector. “This decision is an invitation to litigate this issue.”

Although the Knox case involved special assessments on non-union members, Gould said, the Supreme Court’s reasoning suggests that it could be applied to all union dues that fund political spending paid by non-members. The next time that a union goes through the standard process of notifying non-members they have the ability to opt out, the union may well be met with a legal challenge, warned Gould. “(This decision) indicates that if these five (justices) are there when these cases come back to the Court, that the Court will decide these cases adversely to unions,” he said.

That thought has the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which represented the plaintiffs in the case, and similar groups celebrating — and labor advocates fearing the worst.

Patrick Semmens, vice president of the foundation, said via email that while some justices have used similar language in the past, the Knox decision confirms that now a majority believe “compulsory unionism” is a violation of First Amendment rights.

SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina pointed out that while this complicates matters for unions it is “doable”. But he also noted that this decision was one sided in that “There is nothing in this [Knox] decision that even speaks to the question of shareholders, or corporations having to tell shareholders about any of the contributions they make, [..] “The language, to me, signals what has been the rightward drift of the Supreme Court … Now they’ve come up with a decision to make it more difficult for workers to be able to effectively participate in the [political] process.”

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and her guest, legal correspondent and senior editor for Slate Dahlia Litwick discussed all of these rulings with emphasis on the Knox ruling.

As was expressed in it opinion on June 23, the New York Times rightly noted:

The conservative majority strode into the center of the bitter debate about right-to-work laws preventing unions in 23 states from requiring nonmembers to pay any union expenses, including those supporting collective bargaining that benefits nonmembers. It used this narrow case to insert itself into that political controversy when there was no reason to do so.

Jan 05 2012

Executing Citizens United

I’ll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one ~ unknown author #OWSNYC

Back in 1912, the voters of Montana passed a law that barred corporations from direct contributions to political candidates when mining czar W.A. Clark bought himself a seat in the U.S. Senate. That law was overturned in 2010 when the US Supreme Court declared that granted corporations the same 1st Amendment rights as citizens and allowed businesses to freely spend their way into the nation’s political debates. Being single minded Westerners, the Montana Supreme Court has challenged Citizens United by upholding the state’s century old law that limits corporate contributions:

In a 5-2 opinion, the Montana court’s majority concluded that the state’s long history of well-funded natural resource extractors, small population and historically inexpensive political campaigns allow it to demonstrate compelling government interest in regulating corporate financial muscle. Even one of the justices who dissented – saying that the U.S. Supreme Court left no room for states to exempt themselves – argued forcefully against the broad corporate latitude encompassed in the Citizens United decision.

Corporations are not persons. Human beings are persons, and it is an affront to the inviolable dignity of our species that courts have created a legal fiction which forces people – human beings – to share fundamental, natural rights with soulless creatures of government,” Justice James C. Nelson wrote in his reluctant dissent.

“Worse still, while corporations and human beings share many of the same rights under the law, they clearly are not bound equally to the same codes of good conduct, decency and morality, and they are not held equally accountable for their sins. Indeed, it is truly ironic that the death penalty and hell are reserved only to natural persons,” he wrote.

(emphasis mine)

Clearly, Citizens United is uniting people who oppose the solidification of the corporate take over of the government. In December, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a constitutional amendment, S.J.Res.33 (pdf), that would strip corporations of the same constitutional rights as persons, subject them to regulation, bar them from making campaign contributions and grant Congress the power to regulate campaign finance. There are now four different constitutional amendments to the U.S. House and Senate seeking to overturn the Citizens United ruling.

In Los Angeles, CA, the city council unanimously passed a non-binding resolution in support of such an amendment.

Then, in one of their first acts of the New Year, the New York City Council passed a resolution calling on congress pass an amendment overturning Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Oakland, CA; Albany, NY; Missoula, MO; Boulder, CO and South Miami, FL have all passed similar resolutions.

The Montana decision, which applies only to state elections, is important because it sets the path for the return of the issue to the US Supreme Court, while we wait to see if a constitutional amendment can be passed.