Referendum would oppose 2010 Supreme Court case

By Vicky Wedig


The Delavan Common Council will decide Jan. 14 whether to put a referendum on the April 1 ballot that would give voters the opportunity to oppose Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission.

Citizens United vs. the FEC is a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that granted corporations the power to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections, according to United Wisconsin, a state group that opposes the ruling.

United Wisconsin collected 430 signatures in Delavan in November calling for a local advisory referendum. A similar petition drive in Elkhorn also generated enough signatures there to place a referendum on the spring ballot, said Erik Kirkstein, of United Wisconsin.

So far 26 Wisconsin municipalities have gone on the record opposing Citizens United vs. FEC by passing advisory referendums or their governing bodies adopting resolutions since 2010.

United Wisconsin volunteers collected signatures outside the Delavan post office and the Aram Public Library and went door to door beginning Nov. 9, Kirkstein said. It submitted the petition with 430 signatures to City Clerk Sue Kitzman on Dec. 12. He said the city has 15 days to certify that the petition signatures are valid before the matter goes before the city council.

Kitzman said she was certifying signatures on the petition last week. The Common Council will consider Jan. 14 whether to pass a resolution or put the matter to referendum in April, she said.

Kirkstein said Delavan is one of eight communities the group has been working with over the past eight months to urge voters to voice their support for reversing Citizens United vs. the FEC. He said reversing the ruling would help prevent the deluge of corporate and special-interest funds that flood into elections and corrupt campaigns.

The Delavan campaign began just as the Elkhorn campaign ended, he said. The Elkhorn Common Council has since voted to have a referendum on the matter April 1.

Kirkstein said United Wisconsin encourages municipalities to have an advisory referendum vs. passing a resolution so that residents have an opportunity to vote on the matter.

Kirkstein said the referendum calls for reclaiming democracy from the corruption of special-interest money by amending the constitution to say that only human beings, not corporations are entitled to First Amendment rights.

The referendum question, if placed on the April 1 ballot, will read as follows:

      Shall the City of Delavan adopt the following resolution:

      RESOLVED, the City of Delavan, Wisconsin, calls for reclaiming democracy from the corrupting effects of undue corporate influence by amending the United States Constitution to establish that:

      1. Only human beings, not corporations, unions, nonprofit organizations nor similar associations are entitled to constitutional rights, and

      2. Money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.

      BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we hereby instruct our state and federal representatives to enact resolutions and legislation to advance this effort.

The referendum, if approved by voters, is non-binding, Kirkstein said, meaning it won’t change any type of city policy regarding money and elections. He said it will send a message that another Wisconsin community is opposed to unlimited special-interest funding in elections.

The state Legislature has a resolution pending that proposes placing a statewide referendum on the November ballot, Kirkstein said.

If voters statewide approved such a referendum, Wisconsin would become the 17th state to go on record in support of reversing Citizens United vs. the FEC, he said.

Proposing a constitutional amendment to Congress requires 34 states to go on record, he said.

Opposing the unlimited amount of money flowing into campaigns on the local level is the first step to supporting the movement statewide, Kirkstein said. He said special-interest money is corrupting the electoral process and giving big wealthy corporations more input than everyday voters.