Montanans celebrated our Supreme Court’s defiance of the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling at the Occupy Helena Rally on January 21 -- thanking the Montana Supreme Court for its December 2010 decision keeping Montana elections free from corporate domination.
On Saturday, January 21, at noon on the steps of the Capitol, Montana organizations including Occupy Helena, Occupy Bozeman, Occupy Butte and Reclaim Democracy held a public celebration of the Montana Supreme Court’s Dec 30, 2011 decision in the Western Tradition Partnership v Montana case by upholding Montana’s 1912 Corrupt Practices Act.
The January 21 rally in Helena brought together 50 people representing Occupy groups from various parts of the state, including: Bozeman, Great Falls, Livingston, Missoula, Boulder and Helena, to celebrate a Montana Supreme Court 5-2 decision to keep intact our citizen-passed, 100-year-old Montana Corrupt Practices Act of 1912, legislation that clearly states that corporate money has no place in election campaigns. The national media has given extensive attention to this significant Montana Supreme Court decision -- http://www.onthemedia.org/2012/jan/20/montana-goes-its-own-way-citizens-united/.
The January 21 Occupy Helena rally was a great, joyful celebration rally and was held on the second anniversary of the Citizens United US Supreme Court decision which allowed corporations to make unlimited campaign contributions.
Occupy Helena member Jan Ellen Siemers caught the spirit of the rally: “On the 2nd anniversary of the disastrous Citizens United ruling by the US Supreme Court the occupiers of Montana actually had something to celebrate! It's been 100 years since the Corrupt Practices Act was put in place by a Montana citizen initiative to curb the excessive spending and abusive campaign practices of Montana's infamous mining ‘Copper Kings’. The people united will never be defeated!”
Occupy Helena’s rally was one of more than 130 rallies held January 20 or 21 across the nation on the second anniversary of the Citizens United decision. Helena’s rally listing can be found at http://action.citizen.org/p/salsa/event/common/public/?key=72934 (with links to other rallies).
After a noon- 2-pm rally on the steps of the Montana State Capitol, about 36 of the 50 rally participants marched in the freezing rain to the Montana Supreme Court building to recognize and honor Montana’s Supreme Court members and to protest the Citizens United ruling. A photo in front of the Montana Supreme Court of the group shows the rally members with many signs, including “Montana Supremes Rock!” At the Montana Supreme Court Building, the Occupy Helena rally concluded with a Mic Check/responsive chant (text below, video at), led by Occupy Helena’s Gary Carnefix, calling for all necessary actions to reverse the Citizens United ruling.
Photos of the rally and gathering at the Montana Supreme Court building were taken by Occupy Helena’s Debra Bullington and rally participant Rob Stutz of Helena, a candidate for the US House of Representatives (not a member of Occupy Helena ) who attended the Citizens United rally. The photos are posted at Occupy Helena’s website (www.occupyhelena.org), at Occupy Helena’s Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/OccupyHelena) and at the “Rob Stutz for Congress” Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/StutzforCongress#!/media/set/?set=a.322908497753646.84667.245106025533894&type=3).
Media coverage included a video report by Evan Weborg of local KXLH-TV concerning the rally is on-line at http://www.kxlh.com/news/occupy-movement-still-underway-in-montana/#!prettyPhoto[gallery]/1/, and a DVD of the KXLH coverage will be provided to Occupy Helena. Video footage of the rally was also taken by Sue Hoell and Emily Waugh of Occupy Helena and Jeff Milchen of Reclaim Democracy and will be available soon. A Helena IR reporter drove by the event as the rally crowd of 50 was arriving but unfortunately the IR reporter made the judgment that only a “handful” of people were present (rather than the actual 50) and not worth the reporter’s time, did not stay to observe the rally and did not take the time to interview anyone for an IR story.
Background: The January 21 rally was held as a “Thank You” to the Montana Supreme Court for its December 30th decision upholding the Montana Corrupt Practices Act of 1912 in the face of a court challenge initiated by Western Tradition Partnership, http://www.americantradition.org/.
Last year a corporate advocacy group called Western Tradition Partnership, Inc. (WTP, now named American Tradition Partnership, Inc) challenged the constitutionality of the 100-year-old Montana Corrupt Practices act, citing the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. According to their website, WTP is a “grassroots lobbying organization dedicated to fighting environmental extremism and promoting responsible development and management of land, water, and natural resources in the Rocky Mountain West and across the United States.” WTP convinced Judge Sherlock, First Montana Judicial District, that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allows campaign contributions as a first amendment right of corporations, holds precedence over Montana’s law.
But Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock appealed the lower court ruling to the Montana Supreme Court, and on December 30, 2011, in a 5-2 decision, the Montana State Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s ruling. One of the two dissenting judges, The Honorable Justice James Nelson, had this to say: "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 [us] to share fundamental, natural rights with soulless creatures of government."
The fifty supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement who were at the rally were both informed and encouraged by several speakers on a cold, snow-and-ice-covered day, with rain showers during the march from the Capitol to the Montana Supreme Court building at the end of the rally.
The January 21 rally speakers included:
~~~ Jeff Milchen, founder of Reclaim Democracy, whose aim is to restore citizen authority over corporations (http://reclaimdemocracy.org/) and co-founder of the Montana-based American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA, http://www.amiba.net/, AMIBA -- a network of 80 community organizations supporting local independent businesses). Milchen has been involved for more than a decade in efforts to support local entrepreneurs and vibrant local economies and promote the renewal of grassroots U.S. democracy. Milchen urged rally participants to continue and step up our grassroots citizen actions to reclaim and strengthen democratic processes in the US by means of a needed constitutional amendment reversing the Citizens United ruling. See the video of Milchen’s talk at the Helena rally http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EB3HfOfxoE0&feature=youtube_gdata_player. Much more about possible amendment to the Constitution to reverse Citizens United can be found at: http://reclaimdemocracy.org/political_reform/proposed_constitutional_amendments.html.
Milchen has published opinion pieces in publication ranging from the Missoula Independent (http://missoulanews.bigskypress.com/missoula/montanas-big-win/Content?oid=1530513 to the San Francisco Chronicle (http://reclaimdemocracy.org/personhood/montana-citizens-united-precedent.php) More of Milchen’s writings can be found at: http://reclaimdemocracy.org/ and videos of other speeches by Milchen can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wg0PKQ8kXe0&feature=youtube_gdata_player
The Milchen-founded American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA) is a network of 80 community organizations supporting local independent businesses. AMIBA was party to amicus curiae briefs in both the Citizens United v FEC case heard by the US Supreme Court (pdf: http://www.cuvfec.com/documents/case-08-205/Supplemental_Question_Amicus_Brief_of_American_Independent_Business_Alliance.pdf) and the Western Tradition Partnership v Montana case decided by the Montana Supreme Court (pdf: http://freespeechforpeople.org/sites/default/files/FSFPAmicusBrief.pdf).
~~~ Occupy Helena participants: Jan Siemers, discussed the origins and history of the legal fiction of corporate “personhood" status in US law; Debra Bullington, described the Montana Corrupt Practices 1912 and its significance for keeping Montana’s elections free from corporate dominance; and Wendy Fox, explained the Citizens United ruling and why it is a threat to basic democratic processes.
The presentations by Siemers, Bullington and Fox were summarized in a handout that was prepared for the rally. The newest edition of Occupy Helena’s newsletter (Helena, Occupied) prepared by editor Emily Waugh was also distributed and is now on-line at Northern Rockies Independent Media website at http://www.rockymt.org/?q=node/273 will be posted at the Occupy Helena website and sent out to the Occupy Helena e-mail listserv.
~~~ Carole Mackin represented and described the People's Power League of Montana, a band of Montana reformers that put a number of initiatives on the 1912 ballot to restrict corporate influence on Montana elections. Mackin described the actions and history that led to the creation of the Montana Corrupt Practices Act of 1912, http://peoplespowerleague.info/about/about.htm
~~~ Terry Harrington of Occupy Butte described Butte’s history of resisting corporate control and recent activities of Occupy Butte, urging all of us to continue the struggle for justice and freedom from corporate control. See Occupy Butte’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Occupy-Butte/254265324618599),
~~~ Mark Mackin, Helena attorney, summarized the many friend of the court legal relevant to the case in which the Montana Court upheld the state’s 1912 Corrupt Practices Act. See www.mt.court.gov and www.reclaimdemocarcy.org to review the legal documents/legal briefs submitted to the Montana Supreme Court briefs in the Western Tradition Partnership case. Also see the October 21, 2010 decision of Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices in Graybill v. Western Tradition -- http://politicalpractices.mt.gov/content/2recentdecisions/GraybillvWTPandCoalitionforEnergyandEnvironmentDecision
~~~ Erika Hale, representing a large Occupy Bozeman contingent which had carpooled from Bozeman to Helena, described the vibrant activities of Occupy Bozeman (www.occupybozeman.org and http://groups.google.com/group/occupy-bozeman?hl=en)
~~~ Gary Carnefix of Occupy Helena led rally participants in a Mic Check/responsive chant in front of the Montana Supreme Court building. Text of the Mic check (below) and the video of the Mic Check at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EB3HfOfxoE0&feature=youtube_gdata_player
We, the people of Helena,
and the great state of Montana,
exercising our First Amendment right of the people
peaceably to assemble,
peaceably to assemble,
and to petition the government
for a redress of grievances,
do hereby petition
our elected representatives,
city, county, state, and national,
to oppose by all legal means available
the legal fiction
that corporations are persons
with rights equal to human beings
that are protected by the Bill of Rights
of the Constitution of the United States of America;
including by refusal to uphold and enforce such “rights”,
and by overturning the legal fiction of corporate “personhood,”
as embodied most egregiously
in the United States Supreme Court decision,
Citizens United versus Federal Elections Commission,
up to and including amending the U.S. Constitution,
and by litigation,
all the way back up to
the Supreme Court of the United States,
We, The People
Thanks (not only to the Montana Supreme Court and all who helped to get solid legal information before the Montana), but also to the January 21 Rally Direct Action Workgroup of Occupy Helena:
~~ Sue Hoell and Frank Kromkowski -- for finalizing the rally schedule after meetings by the Occupy Helena Direct Action workgroup. Sue set up the sound system used at the rally and Frank served as rally MC.
~~ Debra Bullington, Sue Hoell, Jan Ellen Siemers and Sandy Oitzinger-- for setting up the Occupy Helena table with informational hand-outs, including the new Occupy Helena newsletter
~~ Jan Ellen Siemers, Debra Bullington, Sue Hoell and Sandy Oitzinger for creating and brining signs and banners.
~~ Emily Waugh for editing and publishing the January 2012 (Volume 1, Issue 2) of Occupy Helena’s newsletter (Helena, Occupied) in time for distribution at the January 21 rally
~~ Jan Siemers for researching history of the legal fiction of corporate “personhood" status in US law; Debra Bullington for researching the Montana Corrupt Practices 1912 and its significance for keeping Montana’s elections free from corporate dominance; and Wendy Fox, for researching the Citizens United decision.
~~ The Occupy Helena welcoming committee (Debra Bullington, Sue Hoell, Jan Ellen Siemers, Gary Carnefix, Sandy Oitzinger, and Emily Waugh) for welcoming rally speakers and participants, offering hot chocolate, coffee, and a warm friendly personal welcome to everyone who comes, letting them know what a fine warm friendly fun group we are in Occupy Helena.
~~ Gary Carnefix, for drafting and leading the Mic Check/responsive chant at the rally.
~~ And… All of the rally speakers and participants.
Link to original article from Northern Rockies Independent Media
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A little over a decade…
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