West Allis, Wisconsin Joins Call for Overturn of Citizens United

April 5, 2012
Rebecca Burns

The conservative Milwaukee suburb of West Allis, Wisconsin yesterday became the most recent community to endorse a challenge to corporate personhood.

Republican Party primary voters in West Allis approved by 70% a resolution calling for an amendment to the US Constitution that would overturn the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court.

Critics say that that decision—in which the Supreme Court ruled that limits to independent political spending violated the First Amendment—conflated corporate spending with free speech. In part as a result of this decision, spending by outside groups in the 2012 election cycle has increased four-fold since 2008.

The passage of the resolution, spearheaded by the national group Move to Amend in coordination with local activists, follows similar moves at the municipal level by Los Angeles, Duluth, MN and Key West, FL, among other cities. Last month, more than 60 Vermont towns passed anti-Citizens United resolutions on the state’s Town Meeting Day.

An amendment to the Constitution may originate either with an endorsement from both houses of Congress—which then must be ratified by three-fourths of state legislatures—or with a request from two-thirds of state legislatures for a Constitutional convention.

But groups like Move to Amend have sought a faster route by working at the state and municipal level to build grassroots demand to overturn corporate rule. The amendment that they are advocating—in addition to allowing Congress to regulate how money is raised and spent in elections—would specify that corporations are not people, thereby limiting corporations’ ability to use constitutionally-guaranteed rights to challenge other laws at the state and federal level.

“Last night’s vote clearly shows that corporate personhood is an issue that cuts across party lines,” said Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, a member of the Move to Amend coalition’s national Executive Committee in a press statement. “…Americans from all sides of the political spectrum are ready to get corporations out of the Constitution and out of our political process.”

A poll conducted by the advocacy group People for the American Way in January found that nearly 80% of Americans would support the overturn of Citizens United.