Citizen anger with corporate control of our politics isn’t just playing out at Occupy Wall Street rallies. In Colorado, voters occupied their polling places and urged Congress to clarify that constitutional rights belong to people, not corporations
They also voted to fire their private power company and set up a municipal utility — as 16 communities across the country have over the past decade.
Voters in Boulder backed an anti-"corporate personhood" referendum by a 3-1 margin, putting the Colorado college town on record in favor of a Constitutional amendment that declares that corporate campaign spending is not protected as a free-speech right.
Boulder’s rejection of the money-is-speech fantasy that was outlined in the U.S. Supreme Court’s disasterous Citizens United ruling of January, 2010, was the latest win for a national push by the group Move to Amend to get communities to signal their opposition to the idea that corporations should be allowed to buy election results. Coming at a time with the "Occupy Wall Street" movement is spreading to Colorado cities, Tuesday’s vote was celebrated by Boulder City Councilman Macon Cowles, who told hundreds of referendum supporters: "People are tired of corporations picking their pockets and stealing their retirement. It’s a way in which people express the dissatisfaction with the fact that the corporate agenda has become our political agenda."
Boulder voters were not just sending messages about corporate power Tuesday, however. They were moving to replace it.
Boulder voters endorsed a move to create a municipal power authority to replace Xcel Energy Inc., the biggest electricity provider in Colorado. And on the same day, they voted to increase their taxes by roughly $15 a household per year to cover the cost of what is expected to be a lengthy battle to dump Xcel and replace it with a publicly-owned utilty.
Xcel won’t go easily. The company spent Xcel spent $950,000 on a campaign opposingthe Boulder ballot measures. The company’s campaign overwhelmed that of supporters of the referendum, who spent only about $87,000. But the public power advocates still won .
"People like a David-and-Goliath story, and that’s absolutely what this is," said Ken Regelson, who was active with the group, RenewablesYes.org, the community group that supported developing a public utility.
Their slogan: "Give Boulder the Power!"
John Nichols is The Nation’s national-affairs correspondent. He is the author of Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse: A Field Guide to the Most Dangerous People in America, from Nation Books, and co-author, with Robert W. McChesney, of People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy.