LAKE MILLS — Voters in the City of Lake Mills and Town of Waterloo handily approved two separate ballot measures Tuesday voicing their support for a national constitutional amendment.
The referenda, sponsored by the national Move to Amend movement, asked voters to back a constitutional amendment that would nullify the 2010 Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision. That case granted corporations many of the same rights as private citizens, thereby rolling back previous legal spending limits on political campaigns, beginning a tidal wave of unprecedented and nearly unchecked spending on local, state and national issues.
In both communities, hundreds of residents signed petitions asking their respective governmental bodies to place the referendum on the April 1 ballot and give electors a chance to vote on the concept of “corporate personhood” and generally curbing election spending by special interest groups.
On Tuesday, 72.7 percent of those same citizens in the City of Lake Mills approved the measure with 933 votes, while 61 percent of the voters in the Town of Waterloo gave it a thumbs-up with 77 ballots.
Eleven other Wisconsin municipalities voted to approve similar referenda, bringing the total number of communities in Wisconsin that have called for an amendment to 41. In addition to the two Jefferson County communities, they included Waukesha, with a 69-percent majority win; Wauwatosa, 64 percent; Delavan, 76 percent; Elkhorn, 69 percent; Edgerton, 87 percent; Shorewood, 76 percent; Whitefish Bay, 65 percent; Belleville, 85 percent; Waunakee, 79 percent; DeForest, 70 percent, and Windsor, 71 percent.
Similar referenda were passed last year in Fort Atkinson and Whitewater.
Tuesday’s referenda stated that “Only human beings — not corporations, limited liability companies, unions, nonprofit organization or similar associations and corporate entities — are endowed with constitutional rights” and that “spending money is not speech protected by the First Amendment and to the U.S. Constitution.”
Move to Amend, which has organized similar referenda in communities all over the country, would like to see a constitutional amendment stating that “corporations are not people,” and that “money is not speech,” Their goal is to create enough support for an amendment through community and state-level resolutions that national leaders are moved to action.
Dan Fary, leader of the Move to Amend Rock River affiliate group, which spearheaded the Waterloo campaign for the referendum, said he hopes that state and national leaders recognize that these votes represent the will of the people.
“It’s very gratifying to see this, and it clearly demonstrates the will of the people. There’s an overwhelming support for this constitutional amendment, and it’s time that our state representatives began moving this resolution to a statewide vote, and finally to a resolution from the State of Wisconsin that would be sent on to Congress promoting this constitutional amendment,” Fary said.
Kirk Lund, who also won a seat on the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors, led the Lake Mills Move to Amend group. He said he was glad residents weighed in so heavily.
“We were very pleased to learn that it passed so overwhelmingly, and I think that this passage here in the City of Lake Mills shows that the people here across the political spectrum understand and oppose the corrupting influence of big special interest money in our democracy,” Lund said.
“And it further shows that they understand that only human beings should have legal, constitutional rights, and that corporations and other entities, which don’t have a mind, a heart or consciousness are entitled to privileges but not constitutional rights.”
According to Fary, the group’s work is not done yet.
“We’re going to keep working to demonstrate to our Wisconsin assemblymen and senators the widespread support that this has among voters and encourage them to support this constitutional amendment.”