Moral Low Ground


Montana State Rep. Steve Lavin Introduces Bill to Give Corporations Voting Rights

Steve LavinA Republican state lawmaker in Montana has introduced a bill that would give corporations the right to vote in local elections.

Rep. Steve Lavin (R-Kalispell) has introduced House Bill No. 486, which would “allow a qualified nonresident property owner or designee of an entity to vote in municipal elections and to file for candidacy for municipal elected office.”The bill contains a “provision for vote by corporate property owner” stating that “if a firm, partnership, company or corporation owns real property within the municipality, the president, vice president, secretary, or other designee of the entity is eligible to vote in a municipal election.”

ThinkProgress reports that HB 486 was tabled when it was brought before a legislative committee, meaning it is unlikely to advance and become law. But campaign finance reform advocates say the measure is still an alarming development in the post-Citizens United era.

In 2010, the US Supreme Court voted 5-4 in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations are people, money is free speech and therefore corporations are constitutionally entitled to spend as much money as they please influencing the outcome of American elections via “electioneering communications.” The ruling, which has been widely decried as one of the most disastrous in US history, gave rise to the era of super PACs, “dark money,” and accelerated what critics call the corporate takeover of the US political process.

The impact of Citizens United was felt in Montana last June when the US Supreme Court ruled in American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock (another 5-4 vote) that the state’s century-old law limiting corporate spending on political campaigns was unconstitutional.

Rep. Lavin has a strong history of corporate advocacy. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, he was a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) Public Safety and Elections Task Force, a defunct group that pursued the interests of corporations, including voter suppression.

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