In 1942, the quick and effective response of the U.S. military seemed almost miraculous in light of the beating it had taken at Pearl Harbor. Defeating Japan depended on an abundant supply of oil for the U.S. ships and gasoline for its planes. Ramping up for war in the vast expanse of the Pacific required access to easily produced petroleum reserves.
Montana voters played a surprising role in the military preparedness of the U.S. It all started in 1912 when Montanans passed a one-sentence Initiative. “We, the people of Montana instruct the legislators to vote for and elect the U.S. Senate candidate receiving the most votes at the general election.” Back then, legislators chose U.S. Senators by political whim or the highest bribe. But in 1912, the voters chose the anti-corporate lawyer, Thomas J. Walsh, and the legislature dutifully sent him to Washington as Montana’s Senator.
In his second term, Senator Walsh got wind of Washington-style political bribery. Oil executives H.F. Sinclair and E.L. Doheny (major contributors to President Harding‘s campaign) obtained leases for the Naval Oil Reserves at Teapot Dome, WY and Elk Hills, CA. There were no competitive bids; instead, the corporate-agents had bribed the Secretary of Interior. Walsh tenaciously gathered the evidence that convicted the law-breakers. Because of his doggedness, the Naval Reserves remained unmolested by greedy robber barons and were available for a quick response to the Japanese attack.
Can a Montana vote again transform U.S. history? In November, Initiative 166 will be before the voters. I-166 begins the process to ban corporate money from our elections. Corporate money is trying every scam to defeat the Initiative. Currently, opponents are challenging I-166 in the Montana Supreme Court. They say Montana voters can not instruct their legislators by Initiative. Well Montana did it in 1912 and it worked out well. Let’s do it again. Survival of our nation just might depend on it.