In an uproarious appearance Sunday on MSNBC’s Up with Chris Hayes, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer had nothing good to say about the Supreme Court decision that overturned his state’s hundred year old Corrupt Practices Act.
The act had been upheld by the Montana courts on the grounds that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision left the door open for limiting corporate political expenditures if they appeared likely to corrupt the democratic process. The past Monday, however, the Supreme Court reviewed the case and concluded that Montana had not proven that it deserved to be considered as a special situation.
Sweitzer, who was obviously furious at the decision but tempered his anger with humor, began by telling Hayes that the law went back to the days when the two so-called “Montana copper kings” were among the richest men on the planet.
“They owned everying,” he explained. “They owned the mines, they owned the newspapers, they bought the legislature outright. In fact, when we first sent a U.S. senator to Washington, D.C. [before there was popular election of senators], William A. Clark, one of the two copper kings, he advertised in his newspapers that he would pay $10,000 cash money to any Montana legislator who would vote to send him to Washington, D.C. to the U.S. Senate.”
Schweitzer went on to describe how Clark’s henchmen handed envelopes containing $10,000 to every Montana legislator as they left the legislative chamber — but when he arrived in Washington, even the notoriously corrupt U.S. Senate refused to seat him. “Now, they’d all bribed their way into the United States Senate,” Schweizer hilariously remarked, “but with smaller sums of money, and it was dark, and it was given to their girlfriend instead.”
Finally, in 1912, the citizens of Montana passed a referendum to keep corporate money out of politics and create what Schweitzer called a “pure democracy,” with a part-time legislature composed of ordinary citizens.
“We had a system that actually worked,” Schweitzer went on, as Hayes chortled in the background. “And the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., a place where nothing works, they told us, ‘No, we don’t like your system. We think you ought to go to the corrupt system that we’re using in Washington, D.C.’”
Schweitzer concluded by saying that even the copper kings “were pikers compared to what we’re doing now.” He pointed out that the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act makes it illegal for U.S. corporations to bribe politicians in other countries, but insisted this is only because “we have a monopoly on bribery in this country. If you’re going to bribe a politician and you’re an American company or an American individual, you’ve got to give it to American politicians. You can’t give it to a foreigner.”
This video is from MSNBC, July 1, 2012.