Election financing resolution on Kane ballot
By Mike Danahey email@example.com September 7, 2012 2:10PM
Updated: October 11, 2012 6:04AM
There will be an advisory measure on November ballots in Kane County asking voters if the U.S. Constitution should be amended to limit the use of corporate, special interest and private money in any political activity, including influencing the election of any candidate for public office.
According to Kaye Gamble of Sleepy Hollow, about 50 volunteers worked to collect signatures to get the matter before local voters. Needing at least 12,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot, they wound up gathering 14,386 names, with the petitions turned in last month.
Gamble said she came to the initiative through her involvement with Fox Valley Citizens for Peace and Justice.
The local effort is part of the broader Move to Amend, a nationwide group that came about after the January 2010 Supreme Court ruling Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the Supreme Court ruled that corporations, unions and other organizations have rights akin to those of people, including free speech.
This has given way to the present political environment in which seemingly endless streams of money are flooding into races. Super PACs (political action committees), which cannot directly donate to candidates, have sprung up to advocate for or against those running for offices, as have social welfare nonprofits with a cause and which do not have to report the names of their donors.
As such, this election cycle is shaping up to be the most expensive ever. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the race for the White House will cost about $2.5 billion — counting money from the candidates’ campaign war chests, Democratic and Republican party committees, and outside spending groups. Another $3.3 billion or so is expected to be spent across the nation on races for Congress and the U.S. Senate.
Thus, Move to Amend is seeking support for a constitutional amendment, which in part states, “The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.” The amendment also would call for federal, state and local government to “regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures” and “require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.”
Gamble and some other Move to Amend supporters came before the Elgin City Council last month, expounding for about 40 minutes on the topic.
The hope was to get the council to pass its own resolution on the topic. The Move to Amend website claims citizen initiatives have passed in 10 places, including Boulder, Colo., and Madison, Wis., and that resolutions have been passed by 161 government bodies, including the Chicago City Council.
Gamble said thus far no one on the Elgin council has made an official commitment to such a resolution, but Move to Amend backers hope to have further conversations with council members to persuade them to do so. The group also has not yet asked any other municipalities in the county to take a pro-amendment stance.
And a DuPage County Move to Amend group had no success earlier this summer in gaining the support of the Naperville City Council.
The next steps
Gamble said the plan is that if advisory measures of the sort posited in Kane County can be passed in about half the state, activists will ask state legislators to take action.
Amending the U.S. Constitution is a complicated process.
In the typical route, the proposed amendment would have to pass both the U.S. House and Senate by a two-thirds majority in each. From there it would go to the states to be ratified by gaining approval by at least three-fourths of them.
Gamble claims local activists include Republicans — and that Democrats, Republicans, independents, liberals and even tea party supporters signed the petition sheets.
“This is not a Democratic or progressive issue but a nonpartisan matter,” Gamble said, while noting such prominent Republican leaders as John Huntsman and John McCain have spoken out against the Citizens United ruling.
Still, while Move to Amend says the cause is nonpartisan, from what is listed on its own website it appears support thus far overwhelmingly is coming from left, progressive or Democratic-leaning groups, including some Occupy, Green Party and Sierra Club chapters.
Additional information about the resolution can be had by contacting Gamble at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the League of Women Voters of the Elgin Area website, www.lwvelginarea.org.