Tag Archives: move to amend

Wisconsin communities vote to amend, overturn Citizens United

Wisconsin voters in 18 communities Nov. 8 voted for non-binding referenda to amend the U.S. Constitution to say that money is not the same thing as free speech and overturn Citizens United.

“People across the ideological spectrum get it: All of our voices are being drowned out by those with big money,” said Matt Rothschild, executive director of Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

The questions were approved with overwhelming majorities:

• Rock County (86 percent)

• Reedsburg (86 percent)

• Manitowoc (81 percent)

• Delafield (79 percent)

• Neshkoro (88 percent)

• New Glarus (88 percent)

• Spring Valley (91 percent)

• Osceola (86 percent)

• Mt. Horeb (84 percent)

• Monticello (86 percent)

• Clayton (86 percent)

• New Glarus (83 percent)

• Harris (65 percent)

• Springdale (86 percent)

• Decatur (89 percent)

• Mount Pleasant (84 percent)

• Cadiz (87 percent)

• Lake Tomahawk (91 percent)

A total of 96 Wisconsin communities — home to 2.8 million people — have called for an amendment.

Across the country, 18 state legislatures have voted for a constitutional amendment, as well as more than 700 towns, villages, cities and counties.

Jeanette Kelty, a leader of the amendment movement in Green County, said the morning after the election, “We are extremely pleased that these referenda passed by such high margins. This clearly demonstrates the will of the people. It is time for our state representatives to put this resolution to a statewide vote, and to move towards sending a resolution from Wisconsin to the U.S. Congress.”

Four in five Americans oppose the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision, according to a Bloomberg poll. A New York Times/CBS poll.

“Big money has absolutely corrupted our system of government of, by, and for the people,” said Gerry Flakas of Delafield, another activist involved in the amendment push. “The only solution is to amend the Constitution to clarify that money is not speech and a corporation is not a person.”

On the Web

United To Amend is a non-partisan, grassroots movement. For more information visit wiuta.org.

Merit selection: The best way to end judicial corruption

In the almost 4,000 years since Hammurabi codified Babylonian law, Western cultures have held judicial fairness and impartiality as an ideal. To be sure, it’s an ideal sometimes honored more in the breach than in the keeping, but it’s an unchanging ideal nonetheless.

Today, in Wisconsin, that ideal is under attack, from enemies both old and new.

Wisconsin elects its judges and elections mean donations and donations mean influence. The more money that flows into a judge’s coffers, the greater the chances that fairness and impartiality are at risk.

It’s critical for Wisconsin to reconsider the way judges are selected. The American Bar Association has advocated for merit selection since 1937. Merit selection, which is used in two-thirds of the states, relies on neutral experts and nonpartisan boards to select a qualified pool of candidates from which the governor can choose. In some states, approval of the senate also is required.

Under the system, judges must stand for retention after a determined number of years. The public is asked to vote only on whether to keep them. There are no competitive elections.

Alternately, the Wisconsin Bar Association has proposed a constitutional amendment that would limit justices to a single, 16-year term. According to WAB, the term limits would “engender greater public confidence in the court’s ability to pursue justice independently of political influence.”

We don’t think term limits are strong enough to solve the problem. Only merit selection upholds the ideal of blind justice.

Wisconsin’s already corrupt system has been further damaged by two high court rulings, one from Washington and the other from Madison.

In its Citizens United ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court ratcheted up brazen judicial bribery by removing limits on how much donors can contribute secretly to PACs to influence elections.

In Wisconsin, the problem is compounded by a state Supreme Court decision that campaigns can coordinate election strategies directly with dark money groups. The story of how such coordination became legal demonstrates how this kind of corruption works.

Several dark money groups were charged in a state “John Doe” case with illegal coordination during Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign. The same groups had given $8 million to four of the conservative justices on the bench.

So, when the case arrived at the high court, its outcome was a foregone conclusion. But the paid-for justices went further than anyone imagined they would. They not only dismissed the case against their donor, but ignored all legal precedent and tossed out the law banning such coordination. Then they ordered the evidence to be destroyed.

Why weren’t those justices recused from a case in which there was such a blatant conflict of interest? Just because, they said.

On April 5, with nearly four times the anonymous cash spent for her as for her opponent, Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley won a 10-year term on the high court. Now the dark money groups have five-two control over justice in the state.

Money over merit: A majority of area lawyers said Bradley was unqualified. She’d never served on a judicial bench until 2012, when Scott Walker appointed her to a Milwaukee Circuit Court position. Last fall, following the death of Justice Patrick Crooks, Walker elevated her to the high court to finish out Crooks’ term, making her the incumbent in the election.

WiG is not alone in calling for reform. On April 5, 11 diverse towns in Wisconsin held referenda asking whether to amend the Constitution to undo Citizens United by declaring that money is not speech. Between 74 and 88 percent of voters said yes. That brought the total number of Wisconsin communities who’ve voted to nix Citizens United to 72. Forty-four percent of the state’s citizens live in those jurisdictions.

We need Citizens United to be thrown on the trash heap of history, and we must stop electing justices and appoint them on merit. Fair and impartial justice must not be negotiable.

11 communities vote for amendment against Citizens United

Wisconsin voters in 11 communities in the April 5 spring election backed a call to amend the U.S. Constitution to overturn the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court.

The non-binding referenda passed in Janesville (84 percent), Beloit (74 percent), Platteville (84 percent), Monroe (83 percent), New London (81 percent), Lancaster (85 percent), Brodhead (85 percent), Darlington (81 percent), Clarno (85 percent), York (86 percent) and Belmont (88 percent), according to the grassroots campaign United to Amend and Wisconsin United to Amend.

To date, 72 Wisconsin communities have called for an amendment.

Across the country, 16 legislatures have voted in favor of an amendment, as well as about 700 municipalities.

Ray Spellman, who led the campaign in Darlington said, “We are extremely pleased that these referenda passed by such high margins. This clearly demonstrates the will of the people. It is time for our state representatives to put this resolution to a statewide vote, and to move towards sending a resolution from Wisconsin to the U.S. Congress.”

Four in five Americans — including 80 percent of Republicans — oppose the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision, according to a Bloomberg poll.

A New York Times/CBS poll in June found 85 percent of Americans — including majorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independents — believe campaign finance system must be fundamentally changed or rebuilt.

Polls consistently show widespread agreement among Democrats, Independents, and Republicans that the campaign finance system is corrupt.

“It is now obvious that we are losing our democracy,” said Nettie McGee of Outagamie County. “The huge money in our political system buys our elections and politicians.”

Activists to lobby Wisconsin lawmakers on Citizens United anniversary

Activists with a coalition of groups will lobby Wisconsin lawmakers on the fifth anniversary of the Citizens United decision under the banner “Money Out, Voters In — Wisconsin.” The action will take place on Jan. 21 at the state Capitol in Madison.

In Citizens United vs. FEC, the U.S. Supreme Court said corporations, unions and other associations could give unlimited amounts of money to try to elect candidates of their choice so long as they don’t coordinate their activities with their chosen candidates.

“The Supreme Court, in its Citizens United decision, opened the floodgates, and our democracy is drowning,” Matt Rothschild, the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign said in a news release issued this week. “Here in Wisconsin, we’ve seen the consequences, as the Koch Brothers and Gogebic Taconite, and the school privatizers are throwing their weight around as never before.”

Peter Skopec of WISPIRG added, “Five years after Citizens United, big money is speaking louder than ever before — but the good news is that our leaders can take immediate steps to reduce its influence and empower ordinary voters. State lawmakers should lower, not increase campaign contribution limits, and make coordination between outside groups and candidates explicitly illegal. They should empower small donors by matching small contributions with limited public funds. And they should maintain the Government Accountability Board’s independent oversight powers, rather than take us back to the days of ineffective, partisan-appointed monitoring that failed Wisconsin in the past.”

The lobby day will begin with a press conference at the Capitol and coincide with the introduction of state Assemblywoman Lisa Subek’s bill to place an advisory referendum on the November 2016 ballot asking whether Wisconsin’s congressional delegation should support, and the Wisconsin Legislature should ratify, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment would state: “1. Only human beings — not corporations, unions, nonprofit organizations, or similar associations—are endowed with constitutional rights, and 2. Money is not speech, and therefore limiting political contributions and spending is not equivalent to restricting political speech.”

Subek planned to attend the press conference.

The coalition’s membership includes the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, WISPIRG, People For the American Way, United Wisconsin, Wisconsin Farmers Union, Center for Media and Democracy, South Central Wisconsin Move To Amend, Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, Citizen Action Wisconsin, AFT- Wisconsin, National Association of Social Workers – Wisconsin Chapter, United Council of UW Students, Midwest Environmental Advocates, 9 to 5, Madison Teachers Inc., Move to Amend of Southeast Wisconsin, Chippewa Valley Move to Amend, Move to Amend Rock River, Lake Mills Move to Amend, Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, Reedsburg Area Concerned Citizens, Wisconsin Grassroots Network, Madison Area Urban Ministry, Madison MoveOn, Peace Action Wisconsin, Sierra Club – John Muir Chapter, Door County Environmental Council, SouthWest Wisconsin Area Progressives, One Wisconsin Now, Progressive Dane, South Central Federation of Labor, Teaching Assistants’ Association and Wisconsin Wave.

12 Wisconsin communities to vote on Citizens United repeal

Wisconsin residents in 12 localities will vote on Nov. 4 on non-binding questions asking whether to amend the U.S. Constitution to make clear that a corporation is not a person and money is not speech.

The question is on the ballot in:

• Milwaukee County

• Dunn County

• Green Bay

• Appleton

• Fond du Lac

• Neenah

• Menasha

• Ripon

• Stoughton

• Oregon

• Wausau

• Park Ridge

Already a number of Wisconsin communities have endorsed a constitutional amendment and, if all the ballot questions are approved next Tuesday, the total number in Wisconsin will reach 54.

Nationwide, 16 state legislatures and nearly 600 municipalities have backed an amendment to reverse the Citizens United ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010.

“The Supreme Court changed the meaning of the 1st Amendment, and we want it changed back,” Mary Laan, the Move To Amend leader in Milwaukee County, in a news release.

“People don’t feel like they’re being represented anymore,” said Rita Pachal, a voter in Wausau. “And, in fact, they’re not. It’s all about the money now.” 

Polls show widespread disapproval of Citizens United across party lines.

“We’re talking about billionaires turning this country into a Russian-style oligarchy, where there are two dozen billionaires who buy the whole political process,” said state Sen. Dale Schultz. “We are awash in money because of Citizens United, and it puts good people in both parties in a difficult situation.”