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Initiative declaring corporations aren't humans certified for Montana ballot

July 11, 2012 8:00 pm  • 

HELENA – Montanans will vote on a ballot measure in November that declares it is the state’s policy that corporations are not human beings with constitutional rights and that money isn’t speech.

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch certified to Gov. Brian Schweitzer Wednesday that Initiative 166 had obtained enough signatures to qualify for the general election ballot.

The nonbinding policy statement also would direct Montana’s congressional delegation to support a federal constitutional amendment to nullify the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

The Citizens United ruling removed previous restrictions preventing corporations and unions from making unlimited independent expenditures for or against political candidates.

Citing that 2010 precedent, the U.S. Supreme Court last month summarily reversed a 2011 Montana Supreme Court decision that had upheld the state’s 1912 Corrupt Practices Act. That law for a century had banned direct corporate spending in state political campaigns in Montana.

Stand with Montanans, the group that spearheaded I-166, had said last month it turned in more than 40,000 signatures.

McCulloch said Tuesday the group had met the legal requirement with 24,337 signatures of registered Montana voters and obtained the signatures of 5 percent of the voters in 34 of the 100 state House districts.

The group collecting the signatures estimates it will wind up with more than 30,000 verified signatures and qualify in more than 50 House districts.

“Montanans want clean and fair elections and don’t want corporations to use their checkbook to buy our elections,” said C.B. Pearson, treasurer for the I-166 group. “For nearly a century, Montana had elections free of corporate money. But now our fair elections system is compromised.”

The initiative effort drew bipartisan support, counting Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Republican Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger among its backers, along with former Secretary of State Verner Bertelsen, also a Republican.

Montana’s U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, both Democrats, have said they support legislation for a constitutional amendment. U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., has said he agrees with the Citizens United decision.