Fort Collins City Council narrowly adopted a resolution Tuesday calling on Colorado’s delegation in Congress to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would overturn the Citizens United ruling.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling held that corporations and labor organizations are entitled to the same constitutional rights as individuals, and within those rights can donate unlimited sums to indirect advocacy of political campaigns as an exercise of free speech.
The city resolution, entertained at the request of the Corporation Separation Movement that has ties to Occupy Fort Collins, asserts that only human beings – not corporations – are entitled to constitutional rights, and that money is not speech. The group’s concerns are rooted in the influence it contends big business and its big money wield in Washington, D.C.
Councilman Gerry Horak added labor organizations to the resolution. The original language only targeted corporations.
Four on council supported the resolution: Horak, Lisa Poppaw, Kelly Ohlson and Ben Manvel.
Mayor Karen Weitkunat and council members Aislinn Kottwitz and Wade Troxell opposed the resolution. They said it exceeds the grasp of municipal government.
Kottwitz also cautioned others on council about the message the resolution sends to corporations that are considering moving to Fort Collins and those already here and mulling expansion.
“There could be a consequence for this,” she said.
Manvel acknowledged that changes to the U.S. Constitution aren’t decided in Fort Collins City Council’s chambers. However, he said it is council’s job to represent the viewpoints that citizens say matter most to them, and in the case of Citizens United, he regards sharing local residents’ thoughts with representatives in Congress well within the authority of local government.
Weitkunat insisted that the letter to Colorado’s representatives in Congress containing the resolution also note the dissenting votes.
Members of Congress – one of the groups that stands to benefit the most from the fundraising floodgates that Citizens United opened – also would be encouraged to amend the U.S. Constitution to overturn provisions in Citizen United if Colorado’s statewide ballot initiative Amendment 65 passes.
Roger Dodds of the Corporation Separation Movement in Fort Collins said he has faith that Colorado’s congressional delegation will pay heed to the city’s resolution and the statewide initiative if it passes.
“They are obliged to respond to popular pressure,” he said.
Dodds dismissed Kottwitz’s concern that the resolution would cool corporations’ interest in Fort Collins as a home base.
“This resolution will only enhance Fort Collins’ reputation as a forward-thinking community,” he said. “For alert, forward-thinking corporations, this will stand out as another reason to come to Fort Collins.”