By Jess Wilkerson
Montanans believe in transparency when it comes to money in politics. Montanans have long fought against the idea that money should influence elections in this state. Since the Copper Kings of Butte and Anaconda attempted to wield undue influence over the political spheres and policy-making in Montana by throwing around their gluttonous assets, Montanans have fought against the idea that anyone is qualified to hold office or wield power simply because of the amount of money he has accumulated.
In 1912, the Montana legislature passed a law forbidding corporate political spending in an effort to keep elections free and fair. This law lasted until June 2012, when the United States Supreme Court upheld their Citizens United decision, overruling Montana Supreme Court’s decision to uphold our 1912 law in a two-paragraph ruling issued without legal argument. Montanans did not agree with this decision.
As recently as 2015, Montana legislators came together in a bipartisan effort to pass the Montana Disclose Act, which seeks to eliminate Dark Money (or money from undisclosed sources often from out of state) from influencing politics here under the big sky.
Montanans believe in transparency when it comes to money in politics and that is why Donald Trump’s decision to flagrantly disregard persistent calls to release his tax returns, in the face of more than forty years of disclosures from all other major-party presidential candidates, is unacceptable to Montanans. This is not only important because it is customary for presidential candidates and presidents to release their tax records; Trump’s tax records will reveal where his money comes from and where it goes. And his financial ties are significant in a way no other candidate’s or President’s have been before.
We need to know what financial relationships and potential conflicts of interests our current president has so that we know whether we can trust this president. If he won’t do it voluntarily, then Congress needs to enact legislation requiring all presidents to disclosure his or her tax returns. None of this will happen without the urging of people like us.
Secret money in politics is not something Montana has ever stood before and we should uphold our history of demanding transparency from our leaders. We should do this by participating in the National Tax March day at local marches in Bozeman and Billings on Saturday, April 15, 2017. We should live into our commendable traditions by voting for Rob Quist for Montana’s one and valuable House of Representatives seat. We should vote against the Dark Money funding his unworthy candidate, who only seeks a consolation prize for losing the governorship rather than to serve Montanans.
I hope to see you Saturday!