About 20 people attended the Waunakee Village Board meeting Monday stating their intention to gather signatures on a petition in support of overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
The Waunakee Move to Amend Group members had previously requested the village board pass a resolution in support of the Move to Amend campaign in May of 2012. The Town of Westport passed a similar resolution previously that year.
The village board rejected that resolution, and now the Move to Amend group plans to circulate a petition to place an advisory referendum on the April 2014 ballot.
That question will ask whether the village should adopt a resolution supporting amending the United States Constitution to say that only people are endowed with constitutional rights and that money is not speech, so that regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting free speech.
Paul Lindquist of the Waunakee Move to Amend Group spoke before the board during the public comment portion of the agenda. Lindquist noted that the constitutional amendment is needed but it won’t be easy.
The Move to Amend Group had requested to be added to the village board agenda to see if the board would consider placing the referendum question on the ballot, but were denied, Lindquist said.
Because the item was not on the regular agenda, village board members could not discuss the matter or take action.
Instead, Lindquist said, the Move to Amend Group is willing to find the necessary signatures for the April referendum.
Those who spoke in favor of the constitutional amendment noted that campaign contributions are corrupting democracy. The Move to Amend is a national, nonpartisan movement, they said, and every United States citizen is affected by unlimited, often anonymous, campaign contributions.
One Waunakee resident member, Laurene Bach, noted that she worked on former state Representative Dave O’Malley’s campaign. At the time, he funded his own campaign with $350. Today, an Assembly campaign runs about $1 million, she said.
“This is wrong,” Bach said.
County Board Supervisor Tim Kiefer said the village board has supported other another advisory referendum that had little to do with village matters.
In 2010, then County Board Supervisor Eileen Bruskewitz asked the board to support a referendum question asking voters to weigh in on an RTA tax for a commuter rail line. The village board voted 5-2 to support the adding referendum question to the ballot.
Kiefer told the board he likes advisory referenda because they let him know where voters stand and guide his decision making.
Finally, he said, other communities such as the Town of Westport have passed resolutions supporting the Move to Amend measure.
“I’m not asking the board about the pros and cons on this issue. Let’s put it on the ballot and let the voters decide,” Kiefer said.
After the meeting, Village Administrator Todd Schmidt explained that he and Village President John Laubmeier had decided that the effort should be a grassroots one.
A letter was drafted to Lindquist that stated, “A citizen-led initiative such as this should follow the public process specifically designed for placing a question on the ballot, as opposed to an action commenced by the Village Board.”
Schmidt explained that the board had taken no position on Citizen’s United or the Move to Amend Group’s efforts.