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.

(4) comments

Greg Gordon

I registered my support for the amendment at the board meeting and I hope my neighbors sign the petition and put the question on the ballot. It's just common sense that Constitutional rights were meant to apply to people, not corporations and anonymous special interest groups.

pcbloch

Every town, village, city, and state should take action like this -- and quite a few are. The voters of Dane County already gave their resounding approval to this initiative in 2011, with 78% of them voting in 2011 for a Constitutional amendment that states clearly that 1) only human beings -- and not corporations -- are endowed with the Constitutional rights guaranteed to them in the U.S. and Wisconsin Constitutions, and 2) money is not speech so that regulating campaign finance is not the suppression of free speech under the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

Why should Waunakee voters express themselves on the issue again? Because "only" 500 or so municipalities have done so, and lawmakers at the state and national levels are so deaf to the voices of the merely human citizens that they need a concerted roar from "every [American] village and farm" in order to stop their greedy feeding at the corporate money trough.

Please welcome the Move to Amend canvassers as they visit your neighborhood, and by all means ask them questions about the issue even if you are unsure or unwilling to sign the petition.

FishermanOne

Both parties are beholden to the moneyed interests. The unrestricted millions secretly donated to campaigns by corporations set the agenda, pick the issues, and the candidates we vote for. We need the amendment to correct the current situation where these mega donations are considered free speech. Such an amendment will not disallow other privileges and benefits the people choose to give to corporations.

Karen Mc

This is good news. Before the last several elections, my husband and I pretty much stopped answering the phone because so many of our calls were recorded messages--mostly from out-of-state interest groups I'd never heard of. Whoever is giving our candidates all the millions of dollars it takes to pay for that sort of saturation marketing surely expects something in return. Dollars to doughnuts, it's not good, clean government.

A petition and referendum for this constitutional amendment are great ways for the American people to speak up in a way Congress might hear us, even with all those campaign donations stuffing up their ears. I wish we didn't have to amend the Constitution to make such basic things clear, but if that's what it takes, we need to get it done.

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