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Montana Cable Company Getting Some Idiots To Pay Its Taxes For It, For Freedom
We progressive types have been complaining since the Reagan years about corporate lobbyists writing laws; now a Montana telecom company is leaving that old-fashioned strategy behind and going directly to The People to buy some big taxpayer handouts. Our pals at Cowgirl Blog bring us the story of Charter Communications, which despite being delinquent in paying its 2013 state taxes, is behind an effort to buy a ballot measure that will reduce its taxes and increase its profits. And it's brought in paid petition-gatherers to tell people that the initiative will "lower your cable bill." You have to admit it's a lot more efficient than trying to convince a legislator to sponsor a bill in the legislature, which could just get amended into something the company doesn't like.
Back in 2008, Montana's Revenue Department decided that Bresnan Communications, which was taken over by Charter in 2010, was classifying its cable, telephone, and internet properties incorrectly, as if they were merely a telephone company. Instead, the Revenooers wanted to tax the company's property at a higher rate that actually reflected the kind of business they do. Charter does not like paying its fair share of taxes, and so it wants voters to approve a special loophole that will lower its average tax liability to the state by a whopping $5.6 million. Needless to say, Charter is portraying this on the ballot as an effort that “prevents the 300 percent tax increase from becoming permanent and being passed on to consumers,” because nobody wants an unfair tax increase -- after all, someday YOU may own a telecommunications network and the state might try to make YOU stop fudging your taxes.
And so lots of Montanans are happily signing the petitions, not giving any thought to the fact that they're actually agreeing to put on the ballot a measure that will subsidize an already profitable telecom company. At taxpayer expense. Pretty good deal, because NOBODY likes taxes, which will have to go up for everyone else to make up for the shortfall if Charter manages to pull this off. Ah, but at least their cable bills won't go up. As much. As soon. And all they have to do is to pay Charter's taxes for them!
The Cowgirl also notes that it's received numerous reports that
the corporation has hired out-of-staters, often with thick southern accents, to go door to door, and stand in front of busy stores to gather signatures for the measure. They’ve hired a company called Ballot Access LLC, out of Georgia to recruit and import staffers for the effort.
Not that there's anything wrong with Georgians or anything. But it does make the whole "citizens' initiative" thing seem a bit dodgy.
Also, too, the blog reminds that back in 2006, another initiative was prevented from going on the ballot when a judge ruled that the "signature-gathering process was permeated by a pervasive and general pattern and practice of deceit, fraud and procedural non-compliance.” No telling whether that's a hope here; 2006 was a pretty liberal era compared to today, when corporations have finally been recognized as people just like anyone else.
Montana's Supreme Court threw out a challenge to the initiative on Tuesday; the teachers' union that had challenged the initiative hopes to seek another review before the election in December.
And in the meantime, Montana voters will still have the chance to help increase their own taxes to help out a huge corporation. Isn't representative government a beautiful thing?
Follow Doktor Zoom on Twitter. He thinks Charter Communications has spunk. He hates spunk.