Needham Patch: Democracy Amendment on the Needham Ballot, November 6

From the Needham Patch – [On election day, Nov. 6,] Needham residents will  join more than 150 communities across Massachusetts in voting on a nonbinding question that, if approved, would direct legislators to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“It’s saying that we the people, who are voting on this, want Congress to pass a constitutional amendment that says that corporations do not have the same rights as human people and that the legislature should be able to pass laws regulating political spending and campaign contributions,” said Harmony Wu, a Needham activist and supporter of the issue.

Many Needham residents saw a similar question at the 2012 Annual Town Meeting, when a majority of members approved the measure following about an hour of debate. The Town Meeting article urged the town’s state representatives to support a constitutional amendment.

In June, the Massachusetts legislature did pass a resolution that called upon Congress to enact a constitutional amendment.

Proponents are hoping the response to this new question—which represents the voices of thousands of voters across the commonwealth—will further underline the importance of a constitutional amendment.

“It’s nonbinding, and some might say, what’s the point?” Wu said. “The bigger rationale is that this is an avenue by which people have to organize and mobilize, and when we do this, it becomes part of a large voice calling for change. We’re just trying to make it so that the powers that be can’t ignore this movement.”

Because the threshold for getting a question on the ballot for a senate district is higher than getting a question on the ballot for a legislative district, and the efforts to collect signatures by the deadline were divided, Needham residents in each of the town’s two districts will see different[ly numbered] questions on Nov. 6, [with slight variations in wording,] Wu said.

Voters in precincts A-C, I and J will see a question instructing both the senator [Richard Ross, R] and the representative [Denise Garlick, D] to support an amendment (Questions 4 and 5), while voters in precincts D-H will only see a question instructing the representative [Denise Garlick] to do so (Question 5).

The wording of all questions is as follows (substituting senator or representative depending on the [precinct]):

Shall the state senator [or state representative] from this district be instructed to vote in favor of a resolution calling upon Congress to propose an amendment to the U.S. constitution affirming that (1) corporations are not entitled to the constitutional rights of human beings, and (2) both Congress and the states may place limits on political contributions and political spending?

Placing the questions on the ballot at an election with a highly anticipated turnout will also help make voters more aware of the issue overall, Wu said.

“It’s a public education campaign as well. By seeing the question on the ballot, it increases awareness,” she said.

Read More: http://needham.patch.com/articles/needham-voters-to-see-citizens-united-questions

MORE INFORMATION, on this site, ABOUT THE DEMOCRACY AMENDMENT: Question 5 in Prec.D-H, Question 4 in Precincts A-C, I-J:

The Democracy Amendment: Question on November 6 Ballot

Needham is one of a select number of communities voting on the “Democracy Amendment” on November 6. This non-binding question is an opportunity for the community at large to weigh in on the question of corrupting power of unregulated corporate money in politics.  The question reads:

Shall the state representative from this district be instructed to vote in favor of a resolution calling upon Congress to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution affirming that

(1)corporations are not entitled to the constitutional rights of human beings, and

(2) both Congress and the States may place limits on political contributions and political spending?

Vote YES on the Democracy Amendment on November 6!

We need your help getting the word out to Needham voters. Tell your friends and neighbors about it, help them get informed on the issues at the heart of this question. We have lots of resources on this site, pulled together in preparation for our Town Meeting Resolution.

If you have questions or can help out, please email wethepeopleneedham@gmail.com

For comprehensive information on the Democracy Amendment, and excellent background resources on Citizens United and money in politics, visit/bookmark this very useful site: http://democracyamendmentmass.org/

Karl Rove’s Super Secret SuperPAC Meeting… infiltrated

From Businessweek:

On the final morning of the Republican National Convention, Karl Rove took the stage at the Tampa Club to provide an exclusive breakfast briefing to about 70 of the Republican Party’s highest-earning and most powerful donors. During the more than hour-long session, Rove explained to an audience dotted with hedge fund billionaires and investors—including John Paulson and Wilbur Ross—how his super PAC, American Crossroads, will persuade undecided voters in crucial swing states to vote against Barack Obama. He also detailed plans for Senate and House races, and joked, “We should sink Todd Akin. If he’s found mysteriously murdered, don’t look for my whereabouts!”

Then Rove pleaded with his audience for more money—much more.

This rare look at the mechanics of super-PAC fundraising and electoral strategy was likely not intended for reporters. I was invited as the guest of a financier who is a significant Republican donor. The financier knew that I was a journalist. At no point was I presented with, nor did I agree to, restrictions regarding the information I heard. Upon my arrival at the breakfast, I was not asked if I was a journalist. I gave my name, identified the person who had invited me, was handed a wristband, and ushered into the dining room. American Crossroads disputes this version of events, but a spokesman did not immediately return calls to elaborate.
–Read More at Businessweek

image from businessweek

Obama calls for Constitutional Amendment

Obama in online chat says that mobilizing for a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizens United is a good idea. Even if an Amendment fails, he notes, the process of individuals organizing around the problem of money will help shine a light on the massive problem, which could force lawmakers to take the legislative action they so far have not.

We think President Obama must have been watching the Needham Channel replays of Needham Town Meeting!:

Question: What are you going to do to end the corrupting influence of money in politics during your second term?

Answer: Money has always been a factor in politics, but we are seeing something new in the no-holds barred flow of seven and eight figure checks, most undisclosed, into super-PACs; they fundamentally threaten to overwhelm the political process over the long run and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.

We need to start with passing the Disclose Act that is already written and been sponsored in Congress – to at least force disclosure of who is giving to who.

We should also pass legislation prohibiting the bundling of campaign contributions from lobbyists.

Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t revisit it).

Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change.

Obama Calls For Constitutional Amendment To Overturn Citizens United In Online Chat | Alternet – http://bit.ly/NZqnTH

Killing McCain-Feingold for Good

from mother jones – At this time during the last presidential campaign, the Republican Party’s campaign finance law opponents were in something of a pickle. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was their nominee; the tough law banning so-called soft money bore his name; and so, during the 2008 election, the GOP platform couldn’t take a rhetorical buzzsaw to the laws curbing the flow of campaign cash into elections.

There’s no such problem for Republicans at the 2012 GOP convention. James Bopp, Jr., an influential lawyer who’s made a career out of demolishing campaign finance laws, said in a recent interview with the Indianapolis Star that the GOP’s 2012 platform will call for gutting what’s left of the McCain-Feingold law—namely, the ban on unlimited, unregulated, soft money given to political parties.

The platform, Bopp suggests, will read like a wish list for haters of campaign finance restriction:

Four years ago, he watched with distaste as his party nominated Sen. John McCain as its presidential nominee. With McCain leading the ticket, Bopp said, “we couldn’t write in (the platform) that we opposed McCain-Feingold. And we sure as hell couldn’t endorse it, so we didn’t say anything about campaign finance.”

This time, he said, the platform calls for the repeal of the last vestiges of the McCain-Feingold law and opposes passage of the so-called “Disclose Act” in Congress. It would require advocacy groups making more than $10,000 in campaign-related expenditures to disclose contributors who had donated more than $10,000.

GOP Platform Calls for Nuking What’s Left of McCain-Feingold Law | Mother Jones (Aug 28, 2012) – http://bit.ly/Ppz45v

Massachusetts Legislatures Votes to Call for Amendment

Breaking news!

Massachusetts State Legislature Calls on Congress to Enact Constitutional Amendment Reversing Citizens United Decision

Massachusetts joins Rhode Island, Vermont, California, Maryland, New Mexico and Hawaii in calling for an amendment to restore democracy.

The Citizens United decision is a tremendous threat to our democracy.

The very integrity of our political system is at stake.

I am proud of the House for passing this resolution yesterday and, along with the Senate, sending a strong message that our democracy isn’t for sale.

–Rep. Cory Atkins

Continue reading

NEWS: Lobbying Group Asks Supreme Court Not To Use “Empirical Evidence”

From Republic Report:

Late last year, the Montana high court, citing the state’s long history of corporate money corrupting politics, defied the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and continued enforcing the state’s 100-year old law banning corporate involvement in state elections. The Supreme Court has blocked the Montana court’s decision pending on its own determination as to whether to formally hear the case this fall. Allowing a full argument in matter could allow the Court to  reconsider the merits of the Citizens Uniteddecision, which opened the doors to unlimited corporate and union involvement in American elections.

Now, attorneys for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a 100%-corporate funded lobbying group that has used the Citizens United decision to pump tens of millions of undisclosed dollars into federal elections over the last two years, is fighting to maintain the status quo. And they don’t want the justices to consider the evidence that the Citizens United decision, along with prior examples of corporate involvement in campaigns, causes corruption.

At the heart of the issue is whether the Citizens United decision has increased corruption. Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in a statement about the Montana decision, said the court must make clear if “Montana’s experience, and experience elsewhere since this Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations ‘do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.’”

Interest groups and politicians are lining up to offer briefs to the Supreme Court. Some, like Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and John McCain (R-AZ), have submitted a brief urging the court to overturn Citizens United.

Boston Herald: 56 Mass. towns urge Congress to reverse Citizens United

Amherst, Boston and Cambridge are among 56 cities and towns across Massachusetts that are calling on Congress to pass an amendment overturning the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, which has opened up new opportunities for unlimited amounts of corporate and union funds to influence elections around the country.

The court, in a 5-4 ruling two years ago, ruled that restrictions on corporate expenditures in elections violate constitutionally protected free speech rights.

According to the Democracy Amendment Coalition of Massachusetts, they hit the 50-community milestone on May 14 when town meetings in four communities approved resolutions calling on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment overturning the court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC.

Read More at this link

Boston.com: Needham Town Meeting Calls for Constitutional Amendment

Boston.com: Needham Town Meeting calls for constitutional amendment on campaign spending

Lois Sockol, who spoke at Town Meeting in favor of Article 23

Many argued that though the article ostensibly deals with a national issue, the issue of possible political corruption could have local effects.

“None of us, none of us, unless we hide under a rock, can not be influenced by the electoral process and the people in power,” said Lois Sockol.

Citizens United, she said, tore the fabric of American democracy.

“Big money has a powerful fist, more powerful than any individual.

Nowhere in the equation of big money and the individual is there basic equality.

By this very inequality, unlimited contributions undermine the basic American creed,” she said.

“We are a government of the people. By the people. And for the people.”

UPDATE: 52 Massachusetts Cities/Towns Have Passed ‘Citizens United’ Resolutions

In Town Meetings and City Councils across Massachusetts, municipalities are calling for an end to Citizens United.

On WEDNESDAY May9 Monday, 5/14, Needham Town Meeting will vote on whether passed its resolution to call for a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizens United.

At the time of writing, here’s the list of towns/cities that have passed Citizens United resolutions (click to expand): Continue reading