FREMONT — City council approved a resolution at Thursday’s meeting offering their opposition to the Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The resolution, which passed 4-3, “establishes a position that corporation should not receive the same legal rights as natural persons, that money is not speech, and that independent expenditures should be regulated.” Prior to the meeting, the council government and economic development committee held a hearing on the resolution.
In Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission in 2010, the Supreme Court held that any limits on independent political expenditures by groups — non-profits, corporations or labor unions — were limits on free speech and were unconstitutional. Dave Forgatsch of Fremont, who suggested the resolution to city council, said a constitutional amendment is needed to change the ruling. An amendment is passed with a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress, and ratified by three-fourths of the states.
Josie Setzler, a local volunteer with Move to Amend, said there is a growing sense of support for a constitutional amendment, noting that a total of 150 ballot initiatives voicing opposition to the decision have passed. She said the issue is non-partisan, having discussed it with people of different political backgrounds while collecting signatures for petitions at Downtown Fremont farmers markets.
“I think this is corrupting our democracy and this money is being spent on both sides,” she said.
Councilman Dallas Leake, chairman of the government and economic development committee, said the concern is not necessarily the money being spent — although billions of dollars were spent on the 2012 presidential election — as much as who’s spending it.
“I don’t think most people have issues with giving the money,” he said. “It’s a question of transparency.”
Nobody voiced opposition to the content of the resolution, but several people questioned whether city council was an appropriate body to deal with it.
Justin Smith said that council addressing national issues sets a precedent that could lead down a slippery slope.
“I think the city should stay out of national affairs and focus on local issues,” said Smith, who is the chairman of the Sandusky County Republican Party and a member of the county board of elections.
Tom Younker of Gibsonburg, also a Democratic member of the board of elections, voiced his support for the resolution, saying it was within council’s purview.
“It is a local issue,” he said. “It’s a state issue. It’s a national issue.”
Council representatives Don Nalley, Bob Marker, Angie Ruiz and Leake voted in favor of the resolution.
Representatives Richard Root, Julie Kreilick and Tom Knisely voted against it. Kreilick said during the hearing that she didn’t think it was council’s job to pass a resolution like that, and Root offered similar remarks after the meeting.
Knisely said it seemed like the kind of issue that would be more appropriate going directly to voters — something that Setzler said wasn’t out of the question regardless of council’s decision.