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Local Government

Work to undo Citizens United continues

A citizens’ movement to undo an unpopular U.S. Supreme Court 2010 ruling, Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, has gained some steam, following a successful advisory referendum, organizers say.

Local members of Move to Amend collected more than 14,000 signatures to get the question on the Kane County ballot last fall, asking whether the U.S. Constitution should be amended again – that is, “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.”

In the Citizens United case, the high court ruled, 5-4, that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions.

According to Kane County referendum results records, the advisory question passed, 101,146 to 36,608. An advisory referendum is not binding, but allows voters to voice opinions on government.

The next effort was to get a joint resolution passed in Springfield – which also passed, 80 to 36, with two voting present. Illinois is the 14th state to pass such a measure.

Illinois’ joint resolution calls upon Congress to propose a constitutional amendment and send it to the states for ratification to overturn Citizens United and other cases that allow for unlimited election spending. 

“This was a monumental piece of legislation and grassroots effort,” said Joni Lindgren of Elgin, who spent much of last summer collecting signatures in St. Charles. “The bill was to stop corporations from buying our elections, our political parties and our politicians.”

The resolution states that the Bill of Rights and other amendments “are intended to protect the rights of individual human beings [as] ‘natural persons.’” It quotes Justice John Paul Stevens from a 2000 decision, “Money is property; it is not speech.”

During the week, U.S. Sens. Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, proposed constitutional amendments to end the ­personhood of corporations.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, was a co-sponsor of a proposal in the last Congress, and is looking at the current ones, a spokesman said.

Robert Trent of Elburn, who with his wife, Ulla, signed the Kane petition, said he is hopeful an amendment will occur.

“Big business has too much influence on our federal government and our lawmakers,” Trent said. “I know the vast majority of them [politicians] rely on contributions from large companies.”

But Robert Haase of St. Charles said he would disagree – unless the influence of unions also was covered by the undoing of the Citizens United ruling.

“If it stops union money, then I’ll stand with it,” Haase said. “Somehow, I don’t believe that will happen. Union money will funnel its way into the system.”

State Sen. Karen McConnaughay, R-St. Charles, was the chief co-sponsor of the joint resolution. She could not be reached for comment.

Those who voted no include State Rep. Tim Schmitz, R-Batavia, State Rep. Kay Hatcher, R-Yorkville, and State Rep. and Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego. None of them could be reached for comment.

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