Here in Maine, the list is growing, and I hope your town or city can be added to list of communities and other political groups supporting an amendment to get corporate money out of politics. All I would hope for, out of this letter, is that you’ll agree that the conversation should go on.
If it does, it will be part of a process to amend the United States Constitution. We’re looking here at a grass roots movement that is moving rapidly through the country. People in all parts of the nation are eager to say that the Supreme Court decision about Citizens United was a bad decision, the worst some say, in the history of the court.
For various reasons, I have come to be offended by the wording in this court decision. So it is that I am also in a mild state of shock at the results of that decision. In the elections of two years ago and in the Republican primary, caucus races, and now the active presidential race, unheard-of sums of money are being gathered and spent, much of it money that was set free by the Citizens United decision. If one is not offended by the flagrant corruption of our political process, perhaps one cannot be offended by anything. Mind you, this is a non-partisan offense, as I see it. The money is flowing to both parties.
The solution to a problem arising from a Supreme Court decision, this one in particular lies in the amending of the Constitution. The reason is that the Court majority, putting aside a hundred years of statute and precedent, rested its argument on a purely slanted interpretation of our constitution. The decision asserts that corporations are persons, that as such corporations are entitled to the same protection of freedom of speech as humans are, and that, finally, the spending of money to influence political campaigns is an exercise protected by the first amendment is indeed “speech.”
That use of language offends me and many others, and is one of the reasons I am writing. Any town, your town and mine, has an opportunity to join many other communities in calling for a reversal of this decision. I think the earliest step in engaging that opportunity is you, and the community leaders to declare that the amending of the Constitution must go forward. It may or may not be the only step, but it seems to me a necessary first step for the community to express itself – through its elected local government. This is what Waterville has done, for example, a few weeks ago. It’s what Portland’s City Council did a few months or so ago. Bangor’s council has also passed a resolution; this is what sixty-two Vermont communities have done, in a different form. It’s what the legislatures in two states have done and is being studied in many more.
So, it’s an opportunity for local communities . . . and it’s an opportunity for local community’s governing bodies to take a leadership role. I know there are other mechanisms, and it may be that people will want to put them into play, for example, putting the matter out in some form for the community to vote on. Initially, however, there is an education of the community that ought to happen, and you can be the first educators in that process. What the community leaders say about the resolution to amend can’t fail to stir folks into a further investigation of the matter.
I acknowledge the possibility that the leaders will choose to do nothing at all or that indeed it may produce a negative vote after serious deliberation. Either of those would also be part of the education process for the community as a whole. And also included in that give-and-take would be to inform people why their local government ought NOT to participate in a process taken up so enthusiastically by an increasingly large number of communities across the country. I profoundly hope you would take the first route rather than the second.
Following is a list of towns and cities that have passed resolutions: Monroe, Shapleigh, Waterville, Arrowsic, Bar Harbor, Liberty, Mount Desert, Fairfield, Freedom, Portland, Southwest Harbor (pending), Vasselboro, Bangor, Winslow, Great Pond, Leeds, Newcastle. Many more are being worked on as we speak. I am looking forward to any response this will generate. Take care.