Last November, I delivered 776 petition signatures and a request to the Fort Atkinson City Council to place the Move to Amend referendum on the April 2 ballot. Residents of Whitewater did the same, and Tuesday, April 2, voters in both cities have an opportunity to make a statement about the corrupting influence of big money in our political system.
The referendum asks for a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, with two main points: that Constitutional rights are for actual people, and spending of money is not the same as free speech. It is a rebuttal to the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC — and other rulings — that interpret the Constitution as applying not only to human beings, but also to legal entities such as corporations, labor unions, tax-exempt political organizations, and super-PACs. The referendum also rejects the notion that any limitation on the amount of cash a billionaire can spend to influence an election is a violation of the First Amendment.
To be clear, this referendum respects the privileges granted to corporate entities through state law. Such protections are vital for capitalism to function and for society to prosper, and they exist per legislation by elected officials representing the people. And the referendum certainly respects the freedom of any individual to speak his or her voice, given that freedom of speech pertains to what people actually say, rather than how much money they spend.
A 28th amendment would, in fact, reaffirm — rather than restrain — the original intent of our nation’s Constitution. Yet, if you believe that the authors of our Constitution had envisioned Koch Industries or the AFL-CIO spending millions on behalf of political candidates, you might disagree.
If you think that our elected officials represent us when they benefit from the deep pockets of Sheldon Adelson or George Soros, or even sources outside the United States, you might not support this referendum. If you feel that the tone and content of all the political advertisements over the past year was constructive and healthy for our democracy, you might prefer to vote “no” next Tuesday.
However, if you support government representative of “We the People,” I urge you to vote “yes” on April 2nd. With Congress itself dependent on huge spending to win elections, we cannot wait for action from above. True reform can only come from the bottom up. Passing these referenda will not cause change overnight, but it will put two more American cities among the rapidly growing list of communities and states already on record as supporting such an Amendment.
Any of us can petition for a referendum in our city or village, or urge our town or county board to pass a direct resolution, or pressure our state and Congressional representatives to take up an amendment.
To join the effort, visit:
And of course, if you live in Fort Atkinson or Whitewater, please vote next Tuesday.
- Craig Ficenec, Fort Atkinson