Campaign financing a local issue for Measure 02-81 backers

October 16, 2012
James Day

What does a United States Supreme Court decision on campaign financing have to do with politics in Corvallis?
Plenty, say backers of Measure 02-81, an advisory measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.
“It’s pretty clear that this is a local issue,” said local organizer Rachel Ozretich at an Oct. 8 Corvallis City Club forum on the issue. “Money we keep locally in our community from small businesses helps our local economy.”
Money is the key to Measure 02-81. The Corvallis initiative supports a nationwide effort called Move to Amend, which aims to overturn a 2010 Supreme Court decision on campaign financing.
In Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission the court held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions.
The decision has led to the creation of “super PACs” and a dramatic increase in campaign spending nationally.
“This is damaging to our democracy, our people and the world as a whole,” said Ozretich.
Measure 02-81 and Move to Amend are targeting two key pieces of the Citizens United ruling, that corporations have the same rights as people and that money is speech.
“Those are two legal fictions, and the only way to do this is with a constitutional amendment,” said Ozretich.
Ozretich received support at the City Club event from small-business organizer Lee Mercer of the Main Street Alliance of Oregon.
Mercer presented survey information that showed that 79 percent of state small-business owners think the Citizens United decision was bad for small business.
Smaller firms just cannot compete with larger firms in spending on political campaigns and influencing public policy, Mercer said.
“Artificial entities have the right to spend money without being regulated,” said Mercer. “Congress has tried for decades to limit campaign spending, and every time the Supreme Court throws it out. That’s why we need a constitutional amendment.”
Amending the Constitution is not easy.
The main route requires a bill to pass both houses of Congress on a two-thirds vote and be ratified by three-quarters of the states.
Ozretich noted that the two most recent amendments, No. 26 (voting rights for 18-year-olds) required three months and No. 27 (rules on congressional raises) required more than 200 years.
As an advisory issues, Measure 02-81 does not require any action if it passes.
The Benton County Elections Office did not receive any material from individuals or groups in opposition to Measure 02-81.
Contact reporter James Day at jim.day [at] gazettetimes.com or 541-758-9542. Follow atTwitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day
 

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