If it appears there were more television ads during the last campaign than in previous years, it’s probably due to the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling referred to as “Citizens United.” In this ruling, the Supreme Court decided to reverse a ban on corporations and unions donating to campaigns, allowing them to spend unlimited amounts on ads and other means of influencing the electorate.
While it is still illegal for companies and labor unions to directly contribute to campaigns for federal office, they can now contribute to super PACs, as a result of another court case called SpeechNow.org v. FEC.
One local chapter of a national group called Move to Amend is hoping to establish that money is not free speech and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights. They hope to amend the U.S. Constitution to overrule the Supreme Court decision, and they are starting with local municipalities to endorse their mission.
So far, the city of Pensacola, Escambia County Commission and the City of Milton have all endorsed the movement, and the group plans to present their case to the City of Gulf Breeze next, followed by the Santa Rosa County Commission.
Local organizers Bill Caplinger, Andre “Buzz” Ryland and Mike Potters are on the steering committee for the Northwest Florida chapter of Move to Amend. They organized a dinner meeting at LaBrisa restaurant on Wednesday, June 14, to explain the group’s position and goals.
“Our movement is to say that money is not free speech, and a corporation is not a person,” said Sarah Coutu, who expressed a desire to overturn the Citizens United decision and get rid of silent money that is unlimited and unaccounted for in a campaign.
The non-partisan group includes registered Republicans, Democrats, Greens, Libertarians and others. They are united in their goal to limit the effect of money in politics. They hope to get more Americans to sign a petition supporting the goal to reverse Citizens United.
“More and more people are frustrated with both parties,” said Mike Potters. “The labeling is so ugly and divisive. There will increasingly be issue-oriented politics and, hopefully, the craziness that goes on in the parties will go away.”
They hope to get more Americans to sign a petition supporting the goals to reverse Citizens United and get five senators to sponsor the amendment.
“If two-thirds of the states want to see an amendment, this goes on the ballot,” Potters said. “Thirty-eight have to pass it to win it.” Potters added that, currently, 18 states support the amendment, which puts the movement at halfway to the group’s goal.
One of the members, Cecilia Jacomet-Newman, is a member of the Santa Rosa Democratic Woman’s Club and a supporter of Move to Amend.
“Although Move to Amend is a non-partisan organization, the Santa Rosa Democratic Women’s Club supports their efforts to bring about an amendment to the constitution that would limit corporate power and take money out of our election process. And being from Santa Rosa, we are especially eager to support their efforts in our county. Speaking from a personal perspective, their mission is important to me because I believe that, in a true democracy, everyone’s voice and vote should have the same value. The vote of a single mom who lives from paycheck to paycheck should count as much as the vote of Monsanto’s CEO. With Citizen’s United, the Supreme Court tilted the scales in favor of that CEO and his corporation, thereby undermining our democracy where government should be of the people, by the people and for the people. “
Potters stressed that the group is not advocating for any political candidate or party. Instead, he wants to see “one person, one vote” rather than “one dollar, one vote.”
He points to the founding of the United States as a way to get out from under British rule and domination by corporations such as the East India Trading Company.
For more information about Move to Amend, visit movetoamend.org and sign the petition online. There is a local website at www.movetoamend.org/FL-Pensacola and the group’s facebook page is www.facebook.com/nwfmta. The email address is pensacola [at] movetoamend.org.