Islanders Take on the Supreme Court and Campaign Spending

April 5, 2014
Sarah Lane

On Wednesday, April 2, in what is known as the McCutcheon decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to remove limits on personal spending in election campaigns. There is still a limit on how much one person can give one candidate, $5200, during a two-year election cycle. But the ruling means that an individual is no longer limited to “just” $123,200 in campaign and party donations. Now the sky’s the limit, at least for someone who’s got way more money than he or she needs.

The Bainbridge chapter of local organization Move to Amend Kitsap quickly threw together a protest, and about a dozen islanders marched up and down Winslow Way, starting at 2 that afternoon.

Some people, such as Move to Amend Kitsap (MTAK) members, are seeing this ruling as the companion to the 2010 Citizens United decision, in which the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment prohibits restrictions on donations by corporations, associations, and labor unions. MTAK is gathering signatures to place an initiative on the November ballot that, if passed, would require Washington to ask for a 28th Amendment denying Corporate Personhood and Money as Speech.

So far, 16 states and over 500 towns and cities have demanded an amendment to reverse the Citizens United decision.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the dissenting opinion for the Court. In his opinion, he wrote, that McCutcheon “creates a loophole that will allow a single individual to contribute millions of dollars to a political party or to a candidate’s campaign.” He added that the judicial record that was compiled to support the majority decision in the case showed “that enormous soft money contributions, ranging between $1 million and $5 million among the largest donors, enabled wealthy contributors to gain disproportionate ‘access to federal lawmakers’ and the ability to ‘influenc[e] legislation.'” He wrote, “Where enough money calls the tune, the general public will not be heard. Insofar as corruption cuts the link between political thought and political action, a free marketplace of political ideas loses its point.”

The MTAK petition reads as follows,

We, the citizens of Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, Port Orchard, Poulsbo, and the unincorporated communities of Kitsap County, Washington, reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United v. FEC. We urge the adoption of a resolution by each of our city governments and the Kitsap County Commission in support of an amendment to the Constitution to firmly establish that money is not a form of speech protected under the First Amendment, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.

If you’re interested in signing the petition for the initiative, there is a sheet at Willow’s and at Eagle Harbor Book Co., and you can also sign online at the MTAK site. You can also sign a national Move to Amend petition online.

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