Resolution opposes corporate personhood, money as speech
The Village of Osceola formally moved to “reclaim democracy from the expansion of corporate personhood rights and the corrupting influence of unregulated political contributions and spending” last week, passing a resolution that will be sent to state and federal representatives with a request to enact legislation.
The resolution is part of a national grassroots effort to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 “Citizens United” decision, which freed corporations and unions to spend unlimited outside funds on political campaigns.
Osceola voters showed strong support in November for amending the nation’s Constitution to reduce the influence of money in politics. Of 1,203 voters 973 voted in favor of the measure; 157 voted against.
“If it hadn’t been on the ballot, people wouldn’t have been able to express their opinion, and it seems like they resoundingly support it,” said Evan Wright, who initially proposed the question for the November election.
In spite of strong voter support, the board didn’t pass the resolution unanimously.
Trustee Walt Piszczek seemed to think that uninformed voters had been duped into approving the measure.
“November 8 was a total disaster,” he said. “The people going in to vote had no idea what they were voting on. Because I knew something about ‘Citizens United vs. The Federal Elections Commission’ I was able to say this is about the electors and company voting as a person. But nobody else knew anything about it.”
The measure is not actually about a company voting as a person, but the current “right” of organizations to spend unlimited amounts on campaigns that influence voter opinion.
The ballot language, which came from the nonpartisan group United to Amend, asked voters whether corporations, unions and other organizations should be entitled to the same constitutional rights as individual citizens, and whether limiting campaign contributions and spending treads on free speech rights.
Trustee Deb Rose and Evan Wright disagreed with Piszczek, believing that voters understood what they were approving. Indeed, a 2015 Bloomberg poll showed that a large majority of Americans, 78 percent, believe the “Citizens United” ruling should be overturned.
The measure passed with trustees Rose, Stephen Bjork, Rodney Turner and President Gary Beckmann in favor. Piszczek and Carol Otto were opposed.
Voters in 18 other Wisconsin municipalities approved the same measure in November, bringing the state’s total to 95. Nationwide, 727 communities and 18 states have formally supported amending the constitution to limit corporate rights and political spending.