Are corporations people and is money speech?
U.S. Supreme Court rulings say yes, but area activists hope to let Salt Lake City voters weigh in to the contrary this November.
After frustrating delays, Move to Amend Salt Lake obtained the necessary petitions from the Salt Lake City Recorder’s Office so that volunteers can start gathering voter signatures to place a citywide resolution on November’s ballot.
The resolution states support for the idea that corporations are not people and money is not speech. Part of a broader nationwide effort, Move to Amend seeks to curb corporate power in the political process by creating a groundswell of support to eventually amend the Constitution and overturn decades of U.S. Supreme Court rulings that gave corporations personhood rights.
The most recent high court ruling — Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission — was handed down in January 2010, allowing corporate interests to pour unlimited amounts of cash into election campaigns. Labor unions can do the same.
"It’s a way to educate the masses," Move to Amend Salt Lake Organizer Ashley Sanders said of the ballot initiative that stops short of a binding ordinance that could be challenged in court as unconstitutional.
Move to Amend volunteers now have until April 15 to gather 7,141 valid voter signatures throughout Salt Lake City. Sanders said they began working with the city and Salt Lake County last November but the seldom-used initiative process seemed to stymie city staff, causing weeks of confusion and delays.
Art Raymond, spokesman for Mayor Ralph Becker’s office, said the city was in unfamiliar territory because previous initiatives have been bond-related and were handled by the bonding companies themselves. However, the city responded within the appropriate window of time, Raymond added.
Sanders expressed relief to finally have the paperwork in hand and said the group’s goal is to gather 9,000 signatures by the April 15 deadline.
"We’ll have people on the go nonstop for the next seven weeks," Sanders said of the full-blown canvassing effort that launches Thursday.
While Move to Amend Salt Lake funds the printing of the petition packets, the city’s budget director estimated the cost of printing and mailing the required voter information pamphlets at $38,748.
The city also must contract with the county to conduct a special municipal election this November. That cost cannot exceed $27,000, the fiscal impact estimate said.