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Letters: Political lessons from Montana

June 20, 2012

Re "Big sky, clean politics," June 15

Montana Atty. Gen. Steve Bullock worries that if theU.S. Supreme Courtstrikes down Montana's prohibition on corporate political speech, Montana's political process will become "unrecognizable."

Bullock is wrong to view corporate speech as a threat to Montana politics. Before theU.S. Supreme Courtstruck down limits on corporate speech in its Citizens United decision, a majority of states already allowed corporations and unions to engage in unlimited political spending. Yet there is no evidence that these states were more corrupt or less well governed than states such as Montana.

Though Bullock defends censorship of corporate speech, he never mentions that Montana law imposes no limits on speech by labor unions. That sort of uneven regulation runs directly afoul of the 1st Amendment, which was designed to prevent government from singling out disfavored speakers for censorship. Such laws have no place in a society that values free and open debate.

Paul Sherman

Arlington, Va.

The writer is an attorney at the Institute for Justice, which litigates campaign finance cases nationwide.

When I was growing up in Montana in the 1920s and '30s, we still talked disparagingly about the "copper kings."

And we used to tell the story of how Johnny's papa regularly took the family cow, Bessie, down the road to have her "serviced" by the neighbor's bull. According to the story, Johnny wondered what happened to Bessie when papa did that. What did "service" mean? One day he decided to find out, so he sneaked to the neighbor's farm to take a look; he was disappointed. All he saw, he told friends later, was what "the company," as we often called it, did to Montanans all the time.

The extreme individualism of some Montanans often bothered me, but it pleases me so much that they have people like their attorney general who are going to see to it that another company bull doesn't happen.

Tom Robischon

Los Angeles

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