Wisconsin Amendment to Overturn Citizens United Ruling Question (2014)

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The Wisconsin Amendment to Overturn Citizens United Ruling Question was not on the November 4, 2014 ballot in Wisconsin as an advisory question. The measure would have asked voters whether the Wisconsin congressional delegation should propose and support a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. F.E.C and whether the Wisconsin Legislature should ratify such an amendment.[1]

The measure was introduced into the Wisconsin General Assembly as Assembly Joint Resolution 50.[1]

Text of measure

The ballot question would have read as:[2]

The U.S. Supreme Court's decisions in Citizens United and related cases allow unlimited spending to influence local, state, and federal elections. To allow all Americans to have an equal say in our democracy, shall Wisconsin's congressional delegation support, and the Wisconsin legislature ratify, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution starting:
1. Only human beings - not corporations, unions, nonprofit organizations, or similar associations - are endowed with constitutional rights, and
2. Money is not free speech, and therefore limiting political contributions and spending is not equivalent to restricting political speech?[3]

Background

The United States Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) held that political contributions and spending were protected as "free speech."[4] In 2012, voters in both Montana and Colorado passed initiatives by 3 to 1 majorities asking their respective delegations to the U.S. Congress to support a constitutional amendment that would effectively overturn the high court's ruling.

Support

Money Out Voters In - WI Coalition supported the legislation to put the non-binding referendum on the ballot.

On January 21, 2013, the coalition delivered 24,000 petition signatures to the General Assembly. The petitions called on legislators to pass Assembly Joint Resolution 50.[5]

Supporters

Organizations

  • WISPIRG[6]
  • People For the American Way
  • Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
  • Center for Media and Democracy
  • South Central Wisconsin Move To Amend
  • United Wisconsin
  • Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans
  • AFT- Wisconsin
  • Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups
  • Citizen Action Wisconsin
  • Madison Area Urban Ministry
  • National Association of Social Workers, WI Chapter
  • United Council of UW Students
  • Madison Teachers, Inc.
  • Wisconsin Network For Peace And Justice
  • Midwest Environmental Advocates
  • Peace Action WI
  • Sierra Club, John Muir Chapter
  • WI Farmers Union
  • Door County Environmental Council
  • South West Wisconsin Area Progressives
  • Reedsburg Area Concerned Citizens
  • One Wisconsin Now
  • 9 to 5
  • Progressive Dane
  • Move to Amend of Southeast Wisconsin
  • Chippewa Valley Move to Amend
  • Move to Amend Rock River Affiliate
  • Lake Mills Move to Amend
  • Madison MoveOn
  • Wisconsin Grassroots Network
  • South Central Federation of Labor
  • Teaching Assistants’ Association
  • Wisconsin Wave

Arguments

  • Lisa Subeck, executive director of United Wisconsin, argued, “Unlimited election spending by corporations and special interest groups has drowned out the voice of the people in our elections, and urgent action is needed to restore our democracy. Wisconsinites will continue raising their voices until fundamental reforms to our broken campaign finance system are enacted, starting with the reversal of Citizens United.”[5]
  • Darin Von Ruden, president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union, claimed that the Citizens United ruling had a particularly negative effect on rural constituents. He said, “When I look at this, it seems to me that there’s a whole lot of money just going back and forth: campaign contributions from urban and suburban areas coming in, and tax dollars to urban and suburban areas going out. Those of us who are paying taxes in rural areas aren’t getting our full share of the American promise of representative government. We need to bring an end to unlimited and unaccountable campaign spending. That is why I and fellow members of Wisconsin Farmers Union support an end to the era of unlimited money in politics, and are advocating for a Constitutional amendment stating that unions, corporations and special interest groups are not people, and money is not speech.”[7]

Media editorial positions

Support

  • The Capital Times said, "Scheduling two advisory referendums for this fall would be easy, and inexpensive — as Wisconsinites will already be voting for governor, statewide and county posts, legislative seats and Congress. It would also generate interest in the election, potentially drawing more voters to the polls. The people of Wisconsin, not out-of-state corporations and their Washington-based henchmen, should decide whether Wisconsin calls for changing the U.S. Constitution."[8]

Path to the ballot

The measure needed to pass through both chambers of the state legislature in order to place the nonbinding question on the ballot.

Timeline

  • August 27, 2013: AJR 50 was introduced into the Wisconsin Legislature[1]
  • August 27, 2013: Referred to the Committee on Government Operations and State Licensing
  • October 17, 2013: Withdrawn from the Committee on Government Operations and State Licensing and referred to the Committee on State Affairs and Government Operations
  • February 11, 2014: The Wisconsin Assembly refused to suspend rules to withdraw the measure from the Committee on State Affairs and Government Operations and to take up a vote on the referendum with 39 voting in favor and 60 voting against. All Democrats voted in favor and all Republicans voted against.
  • March 21, 2014: The Assembly adjourned for the year without voting on the measure.

Similar measures

See also

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References