United Wisconsin, an activist group, last month launched a local petition drive against Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision that found that the First Amendment did not allow the government to restrict independent political expenditures by corporations or other groups.
The petition drive, assisted by Grassroots Tosa, gives the group 60 days to collect 3,800 signatures, which would allow a referendum to be placed on the ballot in the next general election urging a city of Wauwatosa resolution against Citizens United.
The drive is about halfway over, and Erik Kirkstein, political director of United Wisconsin, said about half the number of required signatures have been collected.
“This issue runs far deeper than any partisan issue,” Tosa Alderman Greg Walz-Chojnacki said in a statement. “For me, it comes down to the question of whether democracy means ‘one person, one vote’ or ‘one dollar, one vote.’ This referendum is an important opportunity for the citizens of our city to pause and consider the meaning of democracy in America.”
United Wisconsin holds that the Supreme Court decision increases political spending and gives deep-pocketed interests undue influence.
The referendum would ask voters to decide if the city should adopt a resolution reading:
“Resolved, the city of Wauwatosa, 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, 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.”
Other units of government around the state have passed similar referendums, including West Allis, Monona, Madison, Fort Atkinson, Whitewater, Dane County, Chippewa County, and Eau Claire County, according to United Wisconsin.
Jim Pugh, public relations director of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, said: “The First Amendment provides free speech rights for individuals, and groups, and businesses, and unions, and everyone in the United States of America. To roll back the First Amendment in the United States is not a good idea.”