It's up to the people
In February, the state Assembly voted along party lines to keep a legislative resolution calling for a statewide referendum on money in politics bogged down in committee. It seeks to place a question on the November ballot asking voters whether they support amending the U.S. Constitution to reverse the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission.
Specifically, it seeks to abolish the concept of "corporate personhood" granted in 2010 by the court, which stated that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions. Second, it states that the notion of "money is not free speech" needs to be part of campaign finance reform to prevent wealthy individuals or other nonprofit, noncorporate groups or unions from continuing to bankroll elections in hopes of getting their way.
While legislators are refusing to break ranks, the issue has been making headway due to the people themselves. Readers will recall back to July 2013 when the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors supported a Move to Amend resolution at the county level on a 23-5 vote. Then last year, Whitewater and Fort Atkinson joined the Wisconsin cities going on record in favor of Move to Amend's citizen-initiated effort to reverse the court ruling. Several other townships have followed suit, as well.
Now, in a referendum April 1, the City of Lake Mills and Town of Waterloo will be asked to weigh in on the decision that led to the "corporations are people" and "money is speech" concepts.
We should mention that one Republican legislator who does support Move to Amend is Sen. Dale Schultz. He told a Lake Mills audience last week that he spent $10,000 in his first race in 1982, an amount that "left me aghast." He then reported that in the 2011 recall, Sens. Alberta Darling and Luther Olsen's campaigns costs more than $10.1 million and $7.2 million, respectively. And while he did not have any exact figures, Schultz estimated that candidates actually only control about 15 percent to 20 percent of their campaign finances; the rest is from outside groups.
"I always thought that businesses did not have a significant voice and that their voices should be heard in the public square. Never, in my wildest dreams, did I think businesses would buy the public square," said Schultz, who said he is not seeking re-election due to being frustrated by the rise of "dark money" in politics.
Schultz isn't alone in his sentiments. U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., recently said he would not seek re-election in 2014, simply because constantly fund-raising for the next election got in the way of him doing his job. And in his farewell address, John Kerry, the richest member of the U.S. Senate, urged his colleagues to address the "corrupting" influence of money in politics.
Now granted, the best way to address this problem would be for Congress to close loopholes in campaign finance laws so that donors can't hide in the shadows. Unfortunately, we don’t see that happening anytime soon, if at all.
So it appears to be up to we, the people, to decide.
Lake Mills and Waterloo electors, vote “yes” on the Move To Amend referendum this April 1.
- Daily Jefferson County Union Editorial Opinion. Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Wisconsin Communities that are ready to Amend
The 16 States that are supporting an Amendment
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