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:

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Dark Money In State and Local Elections

Buying a presidential race is incredibly difficult.

But you can significantly influence if not turn the tide in a congressional election with a lot less money.

More great work from Bill Moyers & Company

In the wake of Wisconsin’s $63.5 million recall election, we caught up with Mother Jonesreporter Andy Kroll to discuss the role of dark money in state and local elections.

Lauren Feeney: Big national organizations like American Crossroads and Club for Growth Action are pouring money not just into the presidential election, but also into state and local races. Why?

Andy Kroll: Three words: Return on investment.

You can turn an election a lot easier at the congressional level than you can at the presidential level.

Continue reading

Local Activists In ‘Resolutions Week’

Citizens United Targeted By Local Activists In ‘Resolutions Week’ Push

Across the country citizens are working this week to mobilize local communities in support of a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and kick money out of politics.

Hey Needham — you were on the vanguard of this. Read more here.

Stacie Shapiro: Thank You!

Letter to Needham Times:
Thanks to all who supported the effort to pass a resolution at Town Meeting, putting Needham on record in opposition to the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” ruling.
This ruling, narrowly decided by a 5-4 vote, gives Corporations “Free Speech” protections under the first amendment, and thus allows corporations to engage in political expenditures in a way that was previously not permitted.
People from all political affiliations and economic standings have strongly criticized this decision, acknowledging the potential for corporate dollars to overwhelm and distort the electoral process.
 Concerns about this decision inspired a group of Needham residents to join a growing movement across the country of people seeking a Constitutional Amendment to rectify the problems associated with the Supreme Court ruling. Continue reading

Outside Money, Local Elections

In 2010, 74 Senate and House races changed hands.  According to Public Citizen’s analysis, in almost every case the outside electioneering was significantly higher on the winning side.

Think that through:  that’s OUTSIDE money controlling the vote.

This spending isn’t just a risk for undermining local control–it’s already done it.

Read the report .

Then take a look at this fascinating autopsy of money in a 2010 municipal race. The point, here, isn’t to demonize this candidate or her backers or the author of the piece.

Instead, consider the paradigm money and/in elections in this way is really a system of buying influence. And how when it is virtually unlimited, as it is with Citizens United as the law of the land, the local autonomy of every town and burg is under threat.

 Something struck me as unusual. Ninety percent of the money Ms. Roberts raised is from a small group of people who earn their livelihoods buying, selling, and developing land, and belonging to organizations with names like The North Coast Citizens for a Better Economy, headquartered in Petaluma, and The California Real Estate Political Action Committee, located in San Diego. Furthermore, the financial backing for this campaign was uncomfortably familiar to me. (I have been here since 1972).

It appears to me that Ms. Roberts is being financed by the very people who fought against legalizing owner built homes in the 70’s, were for off-shore oil development in the 80’s, were for developing the Ukiah Masonite property by outside developers, were for GMO’s and now, against a modest sales tax increase to help us save much needed county services to the unfortunate amongst us. The list of players in this financial backing is impressive and has the appearance of being orchestrated for a purpose. I made a chart to help me understand the conservative side of Ms. Roberts support a bit more clearly, and I am sharing it with you here in the interests of fair and honest disclosure.

How does Citizens United affect our town?

The text below is excerpted from Public Citizen; PDF of full document can be seen here.

The federal impact of Citizens United is well publicized, but it is also important to understand the effect this ruling has on local towns and cities throughout the nation.

Corporate Spending Can Have an Even Greater Impact Locally

The egregious levels of outside spending on the federal level are well documented. In the 2010 Congressional elections, spending by corporations and wealthy individuals totaled almost $300 million.

The super-rich are dominating the 2012 election cycle, with over one-third of all contributions to Super PACs coming from just ten individuals. In comparison to these mammoth sums of money, it only takes a modest amount of money to have a transformative impact on a local election.

If multi-million dollar Super-PACs can buy the victory of even presidential candidates,

then what’s stopping them from influencing local political elections?

Consider This: In the April 2012 elections for Oklahoma City Council the Super-PAC “Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum” spent $400,000 on four candidates. The annual salary for an Oklahoma City Council member is $12,000 annually. Three of these four candidates won their campaigns. The only candidate who was able to defeat one of these Super Pac candidates noted deep concerns he saw with the democratic implications of a Super-PAC spending large sums on campaign ads without disclosing its donors.

Or This: Durham County in North Carolina is also experiencing the effects of SuperPACs. The SuperPAC “Durham Partnership for Progress” – funded by a developing firm – spent thousands of dollars on a mailer supporting four council people who support a controversial development project the that the firm, Southern Durham Development, plans to build. The SuperPAC’s support helped elect two of those council people into office in elections held on May 8, 2012.

Click here to read more from this information sheet from Public Citizen.

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.”