A pay-to-play mantra, as many campaign finance reform advocates call it, won't fly in the Town of Westport.
The Town Board voted unanimously to draft a resolution and letter to state and federal representatives supporting an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining what a person is and excluding money as a protected form of speech.
The resolution came after a crowd of town residents and activists came to convince the board to contest the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court ruling that corporations are persons and granted the same rights and protections in the U.S. Constitution as natural persons.
"It's a pay-to-play system," Westport movement organizer Jacalyn Schultz told the board. "If you don't have money, you can't play. If you do, you can muffle the voice of flesh and blood Americans."
Though largely disorganized, movements against the Citizens United decision have been popping up throughout the country. Leading the charge is the California-based Move To Amend organization. Co-organizer of the Westport movement Karen McKim said their group has received some guidance from the Move To Amend coalition, which has continually stressed the more localized the movement, the greater effect it will have.
"They want to make the point to Congress that it's the people who want this," McKim said. "The more pins we have on the map, the better."
That's why, despite a successful Dane County referendum supporting a Constitutional amendment limiting persons as living, breathing people and the use of money as free speech, McKim and Westport community members want to see their local government support an amendment as well.
"Many people look at Dane County as being Madison," McKim said. "Even here in Westport we can show that all people want this (amendment)."
Playing Devil's Advocate, Board Supervisor Brad Robinson questioned why so little of a change.
"Why did we have to wait until corporations got involved and the 800-pound gorilla came into the room?" he asked. "The whole system is broke, this just went over the top. I agree 100 percent, but I don't think it goes far enough."
Robinson, who once ran for County Board against two more financially established opponents, said he believes all Political Action Committees should be disbanded and campaign finance reformed.
"I went against two opponents who each had $15,000. I had $750," he said of his run at a County Board seat. "I lost, but at the end of the day I can say I wasn't bought."
McKim stressed that the pay-to-play model still happens in small government, too. She cited a potential North Mendota Parkway causing pressure for large developments and those developers using copious amounts of money to strip people from local governments if they don't agree.
Robinson and the board said that wouldn't happen too easily in the town.
"We've had some pretty high rollers come in here trying to influence us. They always leave here pissed off," he added about the Westport board not standing for using money as leverage.
Resident Dave Knutson told Robinson and the board the movement has to start somewhere.
"This is a start," he said. "We're going in the wrong direction, and we need to stop it and reverse our direction."