An effort by two Sun Prairie alders to introduce a referendum resolution to the Sun Prairie City Council is already being met with opposition.
Alders Steve Stocker (District 1) and Maureen Crombie (District 3) will soon ask the council to place a referendum on the April ballot, asking whether voters want Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to curb corporate political money influencing politics at all levels.
“The corrupting influence of uncontrolled spending on political campaigns, accelerated by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, has widespread destructive consequences felt at the federal, state, and local levels,” Crombie said in a press release announcing the possible referendum.
“This corruption is devastating communities all over America,” Crombie added, “and eviscerating the ability of local governments to protect and provide opportunity for their citizens.”
Crombie added that information from Wisconsin United to Amend and other groups show that “the super-rich dominated the 2012 election cycle, with over one-third of all contributions to Super PACs coming from just 10 individuals.”
Stocker agreed. “Big money spending, both at the corporate level and the individual level, controls the decisions of our legislators in our state and nationally,” Stocker said.
Research shows in 2012, according to Stocker, that the top 32 individual donations to SuperPacs totaled $313 million.
“This is the same amount that was contributed by 2.7 million individuals who donated less than $200 each in that election cycle,” Stocker said. “Who do you think the politicians, who received the advantages of this SuperPac money, really represent?”
But one alder, also a former mayor, said the referendum — if approved by the council — would be unprecedented, and turn the Sun Prairie City Council from a governmental body to a political one.
District 2 Alder Jon Freund said there has been no discussion of the item as part of any Committee of the Whole agenda. Why?
“Because they don’t want to debate putting this on the ballot any more than necessary . . . [this is] a tremendous waste of time and money on a topic that isn’t a local issue,” Freund added, “and will have no bearing on national policy.”
The actual proposed language that Crombie and Stocker will recommend to the City Council in early December is: “Resolved, that “We the People” of the City of Sun Prairie, 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 passage of an amendment to the United States Constitution stating:
“Only human beings are endowed with constitutional rights -- not corporations, unions, nonprofits or other artificial entities, and
“Money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting speech.”
Does the city council typically weigh in on national issues like this?
“I don’t recall a time I the 11 or so years I have been on the council,” Freund replied.
What precedent is there for the city council to put this on the ballot?
“Dane County does it all the time...unfortunately Sun Prairie is aspiring to do the same,” Freund replied.
The resolution will require the support of five of eight alders, but Freund said he believes there are more important issues facing Sun Prairie.
“We need to refocus this council on issues we can solve locally vs grandstanding on national issues that we don’t control,” Freund said. “I am sure Crombie and Stocker will be declaring their runs for the U.S. House of Representatives soon, so they can affect change in this area.”