Money out of politics

A Nov. 8 Rock County referendum asks voters to support what some have come to know as “Move to Amend,” a national campaign, or Wisconsin United to Amend, the statewide volunteer-based initiative. Both have established grassroots efforts to overturn 2010 federal legislation known as Citizens United, a U.S, Supreme Court ruling, giving corporations and labor unions the right to open-ended spending for the endorsement of candidates.

Wording on the ballot will appear like this: “Question: Shall the County of Rock, adopt the following resolution? Resolved, that ‘We the People’ of the County of Rock, Wisconsin, seek to reclaim democracy from the expansion of corporate personhood rights and the corrupting influence of unregulated political contributions and spending. We stand with communities across the country to support the passage of an amendment to the United States Constitution, stating: 1. Only human beings are endowed with constitutional rights – not corporations, unions, nonprofits or other artificial entities, and 2. Money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting speech.”

A vote in favor of this referendum, or any others that constituents may have voted in favor of at the municipal level, does not change legislation, Milton resident and Rock County Wisconsin United to Amend organizer Margie Jessup said, but it will help send a message to Washington that a large number of citizens are opposed to the Citizen’s United ruling and would like to see it changed.

Quoting statistics sent by email to the Wisconsin movement’s membership, Jessup said: “Over 700 communities across the U.S. have already passed resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment, including 78 governments in Wisconsin and 17 state legislatures. Once enough states press Congress on this, they will be forced to act.”

Wisconsin United to Amend literature further states that, in Wisconsin, 2.5 million people (44 percent of Wisconsinites) live in jurisdictions that have already called for the United To Amend amendment, and some 19 Wisconsin communities will see referendums on the Nov. 8 ballot, including three cities, eight villages, seven towns, and one county (Rock).

Rock County municipalities which have already passed a United to Amend resolution or referendum include: City of Milton, Aug. 16, 2016; both the cities of Janesville and Beloit, April 5, 2016; City of Evansville, April 7, 2015; Town of Janesville, July 7, 2014; City of Edgerton, April 1, 2014; Town of Porter, Dec. 16, 2013; and Town of Avon, Dec. 2, 2013.  

In a Wisconsin United to Amend press release, dated Oct. 16, the organization noted that it recently contacted “all 185 state Assembly and Senate candidates, to “determine their level of support” for an amendment overturning Citizens United. Of those contacted, the press release stated, 68 responded. Of the 68, 56 were Democrats (15 incumbents), three were Republicans (no incumbents) and nine identified as independents. “The candidates that did respond reported strong support, in the 90-percent range, for a constitutional amendment,” the release stated.

Madison area Wisconsin United to Amend organizer Jim Crist addressed the issue through email, quoting from the 2016 Democratic Party Platform, as approved by the Democratic Platform Committee, July, 2016, he wrote: “… the different party platforms are polar opposites on the issue of campaign financing.

“The Democratic platform states: ‘Democrats support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizens United and Buckley v. Valeo. We need to end secret, unaccountable money in politics by requiring, through executive order or legislation, significantly more disclosure and transparency—by outside groups, federal contractors, and public corporations to their shareholders. We need to amplify the voices of the American people through a small donor matching public financing system. We need to overhaul and strengthen the Federal Election Commission so that there is real enforcement of campaign finance laws. And we need to fight to eliminate super PACs and outside spending abuses.’

“While the Republican platform states (quoting from the Republican Platform 2016, “as paid for by the Committee on Arrangements for the 2016 Republican National Convention): ‘We support repeal of federal restrictions on political parties in McCain-Feingold, raising or repealing contribution limits, protecting the political speech of advocacy groups, corporations, and labor unions, and protecting political speech on the internet. We likewise call for an end to the so-called Fairness Doctrine, and support free-market approaches to free speech unregulated by government.’” 

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