April 7 Referendum: Constitutional Rights Belong to Human Beings

March 25, 2015
Dan Fary

Letter to the Editor, Printed in the Jefferson County Daily Union and Watertown Daily Times by Dan Fary

Since the 2010 Citizens United (CU) decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, our political campaigns have been awash with money. The CU decision basically said that corporations, unions, and other artificial entities are people, have the constitutional rights of people, and that money is speech. Candidate pre-selection and elections have become so expensive that only the extremely wealthy, unions, and corporations can compete with each other with enough dollars to get their voice and candidate heard above the clamor of the other wealthy donors. We average citizens have hardly a squeak of a voice compared to those billions of dollars being spent. Thus candidates we might like to see don’t even get on the ballot so we can vote for them.

Move To Amend seeks a constitutional amendment stating that corporations don’t have the rights of human beings and that money is not speech. Some opponents of campaign finance reform have criticized this constitutional amendment, suggesting that it might limit free speech in newspapers and other news media because they are often corporations. However, campaign regulation existed and worked well, without significantly limiting freedom of the press, from the 1907 Tillman Act, until campaign finance regulation was overturned in 2010 by 5 of 9 justices voting in the CU decision.

In his 90 page dissent to the CU majority decision, Justice John Paul Stevens said, “The Framers thus took it as a given that corporations could be comprehensively regulated in the service of the public welfare. Unlike our colleagues (the five justices voting for CU), they had little trouble distinguishing corporations from human beings, and when they constitutionalized the right to free speech in the First Amendment, it was the free speech of individual Americans that they had in mind. ... Even ‘the notion that business corporations could invoke the First Amendment would probably have been quite a novelty,’ given that ‘at the time, the legitimacy of every corporate activity was thought to rest entirely in a concession of the sovereign.’”

Don’t take our word for it, but research the issue yourself. Then look into your heart and, if you agree with the Move To Amend resolution for a constitutional amendment stating that corporations don’t have the rights of human beings and money is not speech, vote “yes” in the April 7 Watertown referendum.

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