Shaker voters asked to join "Move to Amend" Citizens United decision on Issue 95

November 2, 2016
Thomas Jewell

SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio -- More than five years after the controversial "Citizens United" decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, local voters have the opportunity to push for a constitutional amendment to attempt to strike it down with Issue 95.

Having collected 1,575 signatures from residents to get the "Move to Amend" initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot, Shaker Heights could join about 500 other communities in what organizers call "a grassroots effort to reclaim democracy."

A similar measure is also on the ballot next week in South Euclid, and it's already passed in neighboring Cleveland Heights, as well as Brecksville, Chagrin Falls, Mentor, and Newburgh Heights.

At the state and federal levels, Ohio Rep. and former Cleveland Heights Councilwoman Janine Boyd and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur have each introduced legislation to establish that:

-- Corporate entities should no longer be classified as having the same constitutional rights as people;

-- "Money" should no longer be equated with "free speech." And therefore, it can be regulated in political campaigns.

Back in 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled otherwise in the "Citizens United" decision, which effectively lifted restrictions on political spending by corporations, labor unions and other associations.

The Supreme Court followed this up in 2014 with the "McCutcheon vs. FEC" ruling that in turn lifted aggregated spending limits.

While Shaker Move to Amend treasurer Bruce Ente acknowledged the uphill battle faced in getting a Constitutional amendment passed, organizers pointed out that the Constitution has been amended 27 times, often through grass-roots efforts.

If passed at the local level, as was done in Cleveland Heights in 2013 with 78 percent of the vote, those efforts would continue with a public hearing hosted every two years by Shaker City Council, beginning next fall.

There, citizens will be allowed to speak for five minutes each on the political influence of corporate entities.

That testimony will be placed in the public record and a summary will be sent to state and national legislators.

Petitions would call for a Constitutional amendment declaring that "only human beings -- not corporations -- are legal persons, with Constitutional rights," and further, that "money is not the equivalent of 'free speech.'"

That is essentially the ballot language that will be appearing in Shaker Heights' Issue 95 on Nov. 8.

Other neighboring cities listed as "prospects" for future "Move to Amend" efforts include Lyndhurst and University Heights.

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