You will remember that Montana stood up to Citizens United and tried to prevent campaign funding of that kind operate within the state of Montana, a state with a history of deliberately "small dollar politics." Our increasingly corrupt Supreme Court -- in favor of state's rights except when they're inconvenient for the Republican party -- crushed the effort and forced Montana's doors open to huge and secretive funding sources.
They crushed the effort to disallow unlimited spending in the federal election in Montana and then went on, shamelessly, to overturn the law as it had always applied to internal Montana elections.
This morning, NPR reported on the situation in Montana today, where people are making every effort to track the sources of the money being poured into their elections.
Martin Kaste reported from Montana.
MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: To get a handle on just how big the ad war has become in Montana, you have to dig into the local TV station's public files.
(SOUNDBITE OF PAPER SHUFFLING)
KASTE: Stations are required to let the public inspect their political ad sales records, and that's just what Dave Parker is doing here at KTVM in Bozeman.
DAVE PARKER: There are 21 outside groups that spent money in this race - 21.
KASTE: Parker is a political science prof, researching a book on Montana's Senate race. To track all the ads, he drives for hours between TV stations, where he finds contract files so thick, he photographs the pages to save time.
PARKER: Over the period of two days going to Billings and Great Falls, I took a thousand digital images.
KASTE: He hasn't tallied all his figures yet, but the Wesleyan Media Project says Montana is seeing by far the biggest ad war of any Senate race in the country - 19,000 ads in just three weeks. Why so many? In part because airtime in Montana is a bargain.
PARKER: It's just a lot cheaper to basically purchase media time in the state and saturate the state.
KASTE: And a lot of the spending is unaccountable. The nonprofit groups buying ads don't even have to say where they're getting their money. There are ads attacking both of the Senate candidates, but it's the Democrat, Senator John Tester, who's trying to make this a campaign issue.
SENATOR JOHN TESTER: There is so much secret money coming into this state right now. No accountability whatsoever. Basically just a few people that are trying to buy the government, and it's ridiculous.
KASTE: Tester has an ad of his own, lamenting all the outside spending and implying that the Citizens United ruling primarily benefits his opponent, Republican Congressman Denny Rehberg. Rehberg's campaign manager, Erik Iverson, dismisses this as inside baseball.
ERIK IVERSON: The name ID on Citizens United in the state of Montana, I'm guessing if it were at 20 percent I'd be shocked.
KASTE: He says Montanans may be annoyed by all the ads, but that's not the same as seeing the system as unfair.
IVERSON: I think at the end of the day, Montanans are going to look at this and they say, listen, you know, this is an expensive Senate race and people are going to spend money on both sides of it trying to influence the vote. And that's just the way it is.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHILDREN PLAYING)
KASTE: And Iverson may have a point about the name ID of Citizens United.
ALICIA TOMAC: Um, no, I don't know about Citizens United so much. Do you, babe? I haven't heard too much about it.
KASTE: At a weekend festival near Bozeman, a lot of people, like Alicia Tomac, draw blanks on the Supreme Court's ruling, even as they express disgust at all the ads it made possible.
TOMAC: We, like, have to fast forward all the commercials now, yeah. Basically because it's just people bashing each other. I don't like to hear that.
KASTE: The ad war has spread to non-federal elections too. Montana used to have its own law barring corporate political spending. The ban was passed by voters 100 years ago. But this year it was also struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock says you can already see the effects on smaller state races. ...excerpt -- more here...