SOUTH EUCLID, Ohio — Following suit with other Northeast Ohio communities, South Euclid voters could decide in November whether corporations should be allowed to make unlimited donations to political campaigns.
Since it's a federal law, South Euclid couldn't ban the practice, but the city would be required to hold public hearings every other year to discuss its impact. The mayor would also have to notify Congress that South Euclid citizens want a Constitutional amendment declaring "corporations do not have Constitutional rights and that money is not the equivalent of free speech."
South Euclid Councilman Marty Gelfand introduced legislation at a council meeting earlier this month to place the ordinance on the November ballot.
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The move stems from the United States Supreme Court's 2010 decision allowing companies to contribute to political campaigns as if they were people exercising their rights to free speech.
Cleveland Heights, Brecksville and Newburgh Heights have passed similar ordinances to the one South Euclid is considering.
Greg Coleridge, coordinator of the Ohio Move to Amend Network, is one of the issue's strongest local supporters. He spoke in favor of South Euclid's pending legislation at the May 12 council meeting, as did South Euclid resident Diane Mullally, who said she is "overjoyed" that council is considering the ordinance.
"Under the [Supreme Court's] decision a couple of years ago, corporations have the same free speech rights that you and I have although we don't have their rights to live forever and to limited liability," Gelfand said.
Gelfand, who served 15 years as legal counsel for former Congressman Dennis Kucinich, said the movement has grown since April, when the Supreme Court struck down the $123,000 limit on campaign contributions.
"The Supreme Court held that the purported right of a few hundred superrich individuals to spend outrageously large sums on campaign contributions outweighs the national interest in political equality and a government free of corruption," Gelfand's ordinance states.
He said he doesn't know whether any of his colleagues received corporate campaign donations, and that his legislation is intended to promote a national change.
"Based on my knowledge of South Euclid elections, I don't know that this has been a big problem. But I think what we are trying to do is weigh in, because we are 22,000 people and little by little across the county you will see legislation like this and that's how you get a Constitutional Amendment in place," Gelfand said.
"The point of my introducing this isn't to point the finger at anyone in South Euclid. We want to stop the corruption and stop the buying of elections."
South Euclid's legislative committee will discuss the ordinance tonight at 6:30 p.m. before the 7 p.m. council meeting.