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Letters to The Platteville Journal for Oct. 14
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On Move to Amend

Charlie Clark and the Move to Amend referendum have been given the benefit of a large amount of coverage in the last few issues of The Journal with little to no explanation as to what any of the potential downsides to their proposed constitutional amendment might be. I pointed some of these critiques out at a public presentation and extemporaneously they had no good ideas as to how to solve the following issues. 

I find their goal of attempting to remove or minimize corruption in government laudable. I can understand they believe political patronage and the inherent and perhaps unspoken quid pro quo arrangements that these donations buy are immoral. I agree. I believe the remedy they propose is worse than the ills they are trying to prevent.

For clarification: The local Move to Amend chapter’s language of the proposed amendment as listed in The Journal Sept. 23 does not match the language listed on the website (perhaps due to paraphrasing on Mr. Clark’s part):

Section 1. [Artificial Entities Such as Corporations Do Not Have Constitutional Rights]

The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only. Artificial entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law. The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.

Section 2. [Money is Not Free Speech]

Federal, State, and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their economic status, have access to the political process, and that no person gains, as a result of their money, substantially more access or ability to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure. Federal, State, and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.

The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.

There are 462 words in the Bill of Rights, an average of 46 per amendment. This amendment has 185 words. Part of the reason the writers of the Constitution kept the amendments short and to the point was to avoid ambiguity and fights over the meaning of the text. To this day we quibble over what a “militia” is and what “cruel and unusual” punishment is. I can already see that Section 1 of the proposed amendment, “The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined … through Federal, State, or local law …” has a serious problem in this regard. 

If a local municipality — say, San Francisco — passed a zoning ordinance forbidding all corporations and all corporate activity within its borders, this seems to be permissible per the amendment. Each, county, township, village, school board, state and city appear to be granted the ability to regulate corporations, 501(3)c, nonprofits, charitable trusts, unions, and any other “artificial entities” at their own discretion. Mind you, each one of these units of government could regulate any of these entities in a completely different fashion. For example, Platteville could vote to outlaw unions inside the city limits, and Benton could make union membership mandatory. According to my interpretation of the text it would be legal. 

In 1956 the state of Alabama attempted to sue the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons. As part of the lawsuit the state subpoenaed all of the NAACP’s financial records and also demanded a list of all the members and donors. The goal of the state of Alabama was to publicly disclose this information — likely in the hopes that the members and supporters of the NAACP in Alabama would be harassed, ostracized, or (god forbid) lynched. 

The Supreme Court eloquently opined: “Immunity from state scrutiny of petitioner’s membership lists is here so related to the right of petitioner’s members to pursue their lawful private interests privately and to associate freely with others in doing so as to come within the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment,” and, further, that freedom to associate with organizations dedicated to the “advancement of beliefs and ideas” is an inseparable part of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The action of the state’s obtaining the names of the Association’s membership would likely interfere with the free association of its members, so the state’s interest in obtaining the records was superseded by the constitutional rights of the petitioners.[

In the 2012 election cycle, donors to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign when disclosed were endlessly harassed. Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers are to this day routinely demagogued and hounded by certain segments of society (Including Mr. Clark). 

This amendment would require organizations — for example, the Gay–Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination, NAACP or the like — to disclose all of its members. Stormfront and the Ku Klux Klan would know exactly who to target and where they live. 

Don’t think this would happen? This exact thing happened with Proposition 8 in California. All of the donors that supported Proposition 8 had their names posted, along with an interactive Google map of where they lived. People were harassed for their political beliefs and donations. 

A similar thing happened here in Wisconsin with the 2012 gubernatorial recall. To this day we can see who signed the petition and who didn’t. If I were an employer, using the disclosure portion of this amendment, I could clandestinely decide to throw out all job applications from those applicants whose political beliefs do not agree with mine. Maybe Exxon–Mobil would like to know all of the Greenpeace and Sierra Club donors. I probably could dream up thousands of scenarios that would severely hamper the willingness of private citizens to “get involved” because of the fear of reprisal. 

The reason we have a “secret ballot” when we vote is exactly to prevent this type of coercion from employers, customers and business associates. 

Lastly, and most importantly: Simon and Schuster is a corporation. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins is a corporation. McGraw–Hill is a corporation. They publish books. This amendment would strip First Amendment protections from book publishers! If Gov. Sarah Palin had wanted to ban all textbooks that mentioned evolution in the state of Alaska, this amendment would have given her the ability to pass such a law! 

If in the future, President Ted Cruz instructed Attorney General Chris Christie to open an investigation of any alleged criminal act into, say, Greenpeace, The Sierra Club, GLAAD, the AFL–CIO, or the United Auto Workers, this amendment would strip the Fourth Amendment protections from these groups! The feds under Christie (or more realistically, the state under Gov. Walker) could search and seize any property or files these groups have, and they would have no legal recourse. They could keep them “pending the end of the investigation,” essentially for years, or disclose the contents to anyone. Better yet, the government could seize all’s assets “without just compensation” as they have no Fifth Amendment rights. 

Bills of attainder? No problem! Planned Parenthood doesn’t have protection. I’m sure President Rick Santorum would have no problem convicting them legislatively of murder. 

Due process? Sorry, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, you’re not entitled. President Donald Trump is going to seize all your dues and cash on hand. 

Double jeopardy? Not an issue, President Marco Rubio is going to keep going after the Teamsters Union until we get a conviction on racketeering or we bankrupt them. 

The goal of Move to Amend, attempting to eliminate corruption from politics, is laudable. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. 

I leave you with a quotation that I implore my friends at Move to Amend to re-discover, from Evelyn Beatrice Hall: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Jason Klovning, M.D.

Editor’s note: The names of gubernatorial recall signers and referendum petition signers are public records under the state Open Records Law.

Not a downtown jail

I agree we need a new jail complex. The current jail is outdated, and, on humanitarian grounds, the prisoners get little exercise. 

Placing the jail on the courthouse square, I believe, would be a serious mistake.  First, it would place the jail on prime commercial real estate, further eroding a struggling downtown business district. Second, the jail would be within one block of St. Clement Elementary School, not a good situation. Third, no matter how well designed a jail building is, it is still a jail, which is never an attractive structure.  Finally, it would necessitate the construction of an expensive two-story parking ramp, another unsightly structure.

The Samuels Group consulting firm stated that “bringing the jail and sheriff’s office to the court” would eliminate the need to transport the “prisoners back and forth between the jail and the courtroom.” It is my understanding, however, that prisoners are rarely transported to the courthouse now. Instead, when the prisoners need to attend court, they attend what is called Video Court inside the jail. Video Court gives us many options. 

My suggestion would be to construct a new jail/sheriff complex near the current Grant County Community Services building, located south of Lancaster. Certainly there must be enough land at that site or the adjacent Grant County farm for a jail. It is county land; no money would be needed to buy the land.  

A county jail/sheriff complex south of town could have a yard for prisoner exercise; it would allow prisoners ready access to county services and vice versa; there would also be room to construct a new Community Services building next to the jail, and Video Court would preclude the need to transport prisoners to the courthouse.  This site would require only a parking lot, which is a lot cheaper to build than a two-story parking ramp.

I’m sure the Samuels Group did its best in producing its proposals, but for the life of me I do not understand why it did not consider a jail/sheriff complex south of town. Surprisingly, I did not see where the Samuels Group consulted with any Grant County residents on this project. County (and Lancaster) resident input and support is going to be needed to move this, or any, project forward. 

For myself, and I suspect for most county residents, Lancaster is the city of the dome, not the jail; I would like to preserve that distinction.

James Hibbard

The Platteville Journal will print most letters to the editor, regardless of the opinion presented. The Journal reserves the right to edit material that is libelous or otherwise offensive to community standards and to shorten letters The Journal determines are excessively long. All letters must be signed and the signature must appear on the printed letter, along with a contact number or email for verification. Some submitted letters may not be published due to space constraints. All letters and columns represent the views of the writers and not necessarily the views of The Platteville Journal.