Talk on corporate personhood will be held at UW-Whitewater
City of Whitewater voters will have an opportunity to weigh in on a controversial Supreme Court decision this spring while heading to the polls.
In addition to the various local elections, voters will be asked a “yes” or “no” question by way of a nonbinding referendum. The statement asks voters whether corporations – nonprofits and for-profit enterprises – should have the same rights as individual people.
A national group known as Move to Amend has been circling the country, seeking an overturn of the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial decision in 2010 that essentially stated corporations have the same freedom of speech rights as individual citizens. Members of the court were split on the issue with a narrow 5-4 vote.
More recently, a local Rock River affiliate of the group has been making the rounds in area municipalities and has garnered some support. In addition to the City of Whitewater, the group has managed to gather enough signatures to wind up on the ballot in Fort Atkinson.
In Whitewater’s case, 812 signatures were gathered – a number that exceeded the minimal threshold to trigger the referendum. Slightly more than 600 signatures were required – a figure representing the 15 percent of Whitewater voters who participated in the last gubernatorial election.
“(Organizers) complied with all of the state statutes,” City Clerk Michele Smith said. “Once the signatures came in, we took it to the council, and they approved it.”
The referendum asks voters whether the City of Whitewater should adopt a resolution that speaks out against corporations having the same rights. The language on the ballot reads, in part:
“1. Only human beings – not corporations, limited liability companies, unions, non-profit organizations or similar associations and corporate entities – are endowed with constitutional rights, and
2. Money is not free speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.”
Resolutions similar to the one being proposed in Whitewater have been passed in more than 150 cities across the U.S. In most instances, voters overwhelmingly favored reverting back to prior laws that drew a distinction between individual citizenry and corporations.
Brad Geyer, a Jefferson resident and organizer with the local Move to Amend affiliate, in a statement said he favors changes to existing legislation because it could even the playing field.
“When the highest bidder decides, the republic no longer exists and the people no longer rule,” Geyer said. “The people have lost their representation.”
The local Move to Amend affiliate is hosting a talk Tuesday with two guest speakers: Jack Lohman, a retired business owner and author of the book, “Politics: Owned and Operated by Corporate America,” and Ben Manski, a member of Move to Amend’s executive committee.
IF YOU GO …
WHO: Rock River affiliate of the Move to Amend national organization
WHAT: talk, “The System Isn’t Broken, It’s Fixed: Why We the People Need Constitutional Reform,” with guest speakers Jack Lohman and Ben Manski
WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 19
WHERE: Timmerman Auditorium at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, 809 W. Starin Road, Hyland Hall
In accordance with state statutes, residents can vote early for the spring election at City Hall, 312 W. Whitewater St., from Monday, March 18 to Friday, March 29. City Hall will be closed March 29, but the clerk’s office will be open.