by Nancy Parkinson
Perhaps the most important issue before the Alachua County electorate on the November 4 ballot is a non-binding resolution which will be found at the bottom of the ballot. This resolution asks whether we should amend our U.S. Constitution to definitively establish that Corporations are not people and Money is not speech
The necessity for this amendment is the result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2010, (Citizens United v. the FEC), in which the majority said that Corporations had the same rights under the Constitution as people. Although corporations are never mentioned in our Constitution, the Court had already bestowed on corporations many of our inalienable rights, pushing the bounds of its legitimacy. Corporations should only be entitled to statutory protection conferred by legislatures.
But clearly, the Court’s paramount decision involves the 1st Amendment. As Justice Stephen Breyer said in dissent of the Citizens United decision, “It understates the importance of protecting the political integrity of our governmental institutions.”
In effect this decision has resulted in the corruption of the electoral process, because corporations can spend unlimited amounts and funnel “Dark Money” into Super PACs to support candidates and policies favorable to corporate interests.
The reason this is the most important issue is that no matter how many issues are passed by voters, such issues will most likely not be enforced due to the vested interests of members of State Legislatures, and members of Congress.
Many dedicated and well-qualified citizens have no chance to be elected to office, either locally, statewide, or nationally, because of the infusion of “Dark Money” for candidates sympathetic to certain causes. This will eventually lead to potential candidates giving up trying to obtain office. The end result will be a country run by an oligarchy and a dismal ending to democracy of the people, by the people, and for the people. Citizens will no longer have a voice in their government.
The argument for Citizens United by Justice Scalia was that he saw no conflict in unlimited donations having any influence on elections.
Under the Supreme Court decision large Corporations are enabled to make large donations to an individual, issue, or Super PAC. Corporate management and their stockholders expect a return on their investment. It could be a government contract, or lower taxes, or a zoning change.
Ordinary citizens also donate whatever they can afford to candidates for office. They also expect a return on their investment. They don’t expect to be hired for a job, or be given a contract for service, or a zoning change so they can run any kind of business, flout environmental laws, or expect special favors. They do expect their public official to make wise decisions for the entire community, for wise growth of the local economy, job and wage improvements, improvement in education, transportation, fire and police safety, and environmental protection.
Amending the Constitution of the United States is a long and arduous process. Move to Amend is a national grassroots organization formed in 2009. Hundreds of cities and counties around the country have already passed similar resolutions and at least 16 State Legislatures have passed similar resolutions. A total of 36 State Legislature votes are needed to force Congress to pass a Constitutional Amendment, so we have a long way to go.
This non-binding resolution is at the bottom of the November ballot in Alachua County, below the statewide Amendments. Everyone should spread the word throughout Alachua County.
When you vote on November 4, read through the entire ballot and vote YES on this referendum. The results of the election will be sent to the Florida State Legislature, to our Congressional Delegation, and to our U.S. Senators.
For more information go to movetoamend.org/fl-gainesville. D