High Court decision could make Colorado next Wisconsin

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision in a Montana election case that extends the controversial Citizens United ruling to state and local elections.

“The question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law,” the majority opinion said. “There can be no serious doubt that it does.”

The ruling means the lid is off for state and local political campaign contributions. Limitless corporate or individual contributions, secret PACs, endless attack ads and other unsavory spawn of Citizens will undermine the fundamentals of democracy, if left unchecked.

Meanwhile, H.R. 4480 in Congress, would end meaningful public participation in decisions on energy development on public lands. Also, it would give the oil and gas industry unprecedented control over the leasing of public lands and other BLM land-use decisions.

Considering the GOP omnibus bill as a single entity, the Checks and Balances Project maintains “the provisions in question would weaken the ability of local government and the public to weigh-in on oil and gas projects prior to leasing; would fuel speculation on public lands by creating leasing mandates and creating punitive $5,000 fees to prevent the public and stakeholders from challenging decisions; and, would make energy development the primary use of public lands, despite potential costs to air and water quality, wildlife, and outdoor recreation.”

Other GOP policies include limiting judicial authority in energy cases, requiring the president to auction public lands if he draws down the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, blocking the proposed pollution standards for gasoline and other industry friendly provisions.

This “pollute and plunder” energy bill passed the House by 248-163 — 229 Republicans and 19 Democrats voted for it.

Using data from the Center for Responsive Politics, Think Progress reported that “oil and gas money overwhelmingly went to the votes for gutting standards from air pollution, drilling regulations, and public lands protections.”

For an example of what potentially lies ahead for Colorado, think of the vast outside resources poured into the recent Wisconsin recall election. Outspending Democrats seven to one, Republicans were able to retain power, in spite of efforts led by the public-sector unions and the Democratic party.

Even before the Montana ruling, members of the Colorado Republican delegation introduced bills — one for each of the four GOP representatives — to nullify the voice of the public in decisions on leasing and development of oil and gas resources.

Now, thanks to our politicized Supreme Court, candidates or their proxies can spend unlimited dollars to sell voters their scheme to make oil and gas extraction the primary purpose of public lands in Colorado.

The Republican energy plan is not what Colorado needs or wants. Instead of working for the energy industry, some constituents claim, Republicans should be helping small businesses get back on their feet.

Contrary to the Republican emphasis on resource extraction, the Small Business Majority says on its website, “Small business owners in Colorado believe protecting their region’s natural assets is one way we can enhance the financial success of small businesses and local economies.”

In January of this year, Colorado College reported in its respected “State of the Rockies” survey that nearly eight in 10 Colorado voters regard a strong economy and protecting the environment as compatible goals.

Coloradans long for energy policies that protect the public lands essential to local and state economies. They want energy policies that move the country toward independence from the fossil fuels that pollute our air and water and wreck our landscapes.

Already Republicans have poured millions of dollars into Colorado to elect politicians sympathetic to their cause. With the blessing of the Supreme Court, they can now dump millions more to secure a victory.

Unless Colorado voters of both parties unite to reject the Republican mantra that “corporations are people” and “money is speech,” Colorado may become the next Wisconsin.

Bill Grant lives in Grand Junction. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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