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Wisconsin Democrats Seek Referendum to Repeal Citizens United

Wisconsin voters may get a chance to try to alter the flow of money into politics. (DenisField/iStockPhoto.com)
Wisconsin voters may get a chance to try to alter the flow of money into politics. (DenisField/iStockPhoto.com)
April 26, 2017

MADISON, Wis. - The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case declared that corporations are people and that money is speech. The decision opened the floodgates for special-interest cash to flow into American election campaigns.

Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, and Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, have introduced a measure asking the people of Wisconsin to vote in a statewide referendum to amend the U.S. Constitution to state clearly that corporations are not people and money is not speech.

Matt Rothschild, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, said such an amendment is crucial to having a real democracy.

"Because of Citizens United, we have corporations giving unlimited amounts of money to elect this candidate or trash the other candidate," he said, "se we need to pass a constitutional amendment that proclaims once and for all that corporations aren't people and money isn't speech."

Rothschild has no faith that the Supreme Court will ever reverse the Citizens United decision, which is why he supported making the change through an amendment to the Constitution. Supporters of Citizens United have long held that it upheld First Amendment rights, while detractors have said the influx of cash has been poisonous to our political system.

According to Rothschild, a proposal for such a constitutional amendment already has huge support in Wisconsin.

"Wisconsin is one of the leaders in this country in this effort to amend the Constitution and to say corporations aren't persons and money isn't speech," he said. "Second only to Massachusetts. Wisconsin has the most number of communities that have gone on record by overwhelming margins that they want to see a constitutional amendment."

Rothschild said it's foolish to wait for a Supreme Court decision in the future, and the fundamental cure is an amendment. He pointed out that individual communities in Wisconsin already have spoken quite clearly about this.

"One hundred five communities have passed a resolution in favor of a constitutional amendment, and just on April 4 we had eight more communities, by overwhelming margins," he said. "Ninety-one percent in Monona, for instance, voted in favor of it. The lowest number was 70 percent in Caledonia."

He said that if the state as a whole endorses the referendum, it would pressure our elected officials in Washington to pass the amendment and send it back to the states for ratification.

The text of the proposal, LRB-0176/1, is online at wisdc.org.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI