Montana voters approve Initiative 166: Corporations are not people

Annie Z. Yu Contributor
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Montana voters approved an initiative Tuesday stating that “corporations are not entitled to constitutional rights because they are not human beings.”

Voters overwhelmingly approved the initiative 74.9 to 25.1 percent. According to the Billings Gazette, 293,351 Montanans voted for the initiative and 98,300 voted against it.

The measure states:

Ballot initiative I-166 establishes a state policy that corporations are not entitled to constitutional rights because they are not human beings, and charges Montana elected and appointed officials, state and federal, to implement that policy.  With this policy, the people of Montana establish that there should be a level playing field in campaign spending, in part by prohibiting corporate campaign contributions and expenditures and by limiting political spending in elections….

The measure, proposed by Stand with Montanans, challenges the January 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The decision eased restrictions on political campaign spending by corporations.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority, saying “no sufficient governmental interest justifies limits on the political speech on nonprofit or for-profit corporation.”

In a dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the ruling “threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the nation.”

The White House criticized the court’s decision and said they would work with Congress “to develop a forceful response to this decision.”

Montana Governor-elect Steve Bullock fiercely defended the state’s century-old Corrupt Practices Act, which banned corporate spending on political campaigns. The Democrat and one-term attorney general successfully defended the act in Montana’s Supreme Court, but it was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 25, 2012. The court found that the act violated the First Amendment.

Stand with Montanans called the June 25 decision “a major blow to democracy” that would promote corruption over fair elections.

Initiative 166 charges Montana’s congressional delegation with proposing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution stating that “corporations are not human beings entitled to constitutional rights.”

Montanans also widely approved initiatives to require parental notification to an abortion for a minor, deny certain government services to illegal immigrants and prohibit government from mandating the purchase of health insurance. A little more than half of Montana voters also favored a law that severely limited the distribution and use of medical marijuana.

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