Opinion, Missoulian

Are we re-entering a bygone era when Montanans were shackled by a “Copper Collar?” Is our legislature once again under the dominant influence of a powerful corporate interest as was the case a century ago?

In his 1991 University of Montana master’s thesis, John Thomas McNay describes the copper collar strengthened through ownership of eight major Montana newspapers by the dominant economic power, the Anaconda Company. Anaconda’s 1920’s purchase of the newspapers strengthened the company’s hold on Montana and its political processes. Its newspapers slanted news coverage to benefit the company. McNay states in his thesis: “Under Anaconda’s ownership, the press served the public when it was convenient but, when called upon, the papers served the desires of the Anaconda Company.”

Today, Montanans may be living under a “Carbon Collar,” shackled by the powerful utility NorthWestern Energy benefiting itself through aggressively influencing our legislature. NorthWestern crafts legislation and advises legislators to draft bills that promote its corporate welfare by re-shaping regulatory agencies and offices, and by handicapping renewable energy development in favor of fossil fuels.

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