The Wyoming Constitution, written in 1890, is embedded with a sense of fair play for all citizens. Article 1, Section 6 states, “Both male and female citizens of this state shall equally enjoy all civil, political and religious rights and privileges.” While corporations were viewed as useful tools for economic development, they were not granted these rights. Instead, the Constitution says in Article 1, Section 30, “Corporations being creatures of the state, endowed for the public good with a portion of its sovereign powers, must be subject to its control.”
Now fast forward to 2010. The 5-4 Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. FEC, gave corporations and special interests the same rights as people, opening the flood gates for unlimited campaign spending. This decision neutered elements of our Wyoming Constitution. It prevents the State from implementing reasonable campaign finance laws.
Our northern neighbor has felt the direct impact of the Citizens United decision. A century ago mining corporations dominated Montana’s government and elections. Montana fought back by passing the Corrupt Practices Act in 1912. This act prohibited corporations from paying or contributing to elections and drowning out the voices of Montana citizens. In recent years, however, a Montana state court ruled the Corrupt Practices Act unconstitutional under the Citizens United ruling. Montana no longer has control of corporate political spending.
The Supreme Court’s decision has also put Wyoming at greater risk of unfair elections. Out-of-state money already dominates Wyoming political campaigns; check out http://www.wyofile.com/just-2-percent-barrassos-2017-fundraising-wyoming-based/. This money, often untraceable through SuperPACs, overwhelms the voices and votes of Wyoming citizens.
Enacting Federal campaign finance reform is not possible without an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Wyoming Promise is collecting ~39,000 signatures of Wyoming-registered voters to approve a ballot initiative that calls on the U.S. Congress to pass a 28th Amendment to the Constitution. Nineteen states, including Nevada, Montana, and Colorado, have already passed such resolutions.
Now is the time to reclaim Wyoming’s original constitutional values and our citizens’ right to fair elections. Please join us by circulating a petition in your community. Learn more at www.wyomingpromise.org.