Move to Amend answers
Platteville’s Move to Amend is a local nonpartisan effort to collect the necessary number of resident signatures so that a referendum can appear on the April ballot. That referendum will not change our country’s Constitution, but it would allow City of Platteville voters to decide whether they want their city to go on record as supporting an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and by so doing also encourage our state and federal legislators to advance this effort.
Even though a letter to the editor in The Journal last week contained more negative about the Platteville Move To Amend efforts than positive, the writer does state our efforts are laudable, and he agrees that money is, indeed, a corrupting influence in government and in our election process, even calling it immoral.
The letter goes on to criticize MTA and point out some potential downsides to a constitutional amendment, all leading the writer to believe “the remedy they propose (i.e., a constitutional amendment) is worse than the ills they are trying to prevent (i.e., the corrupting influence of political donations).”
Suffice it to say that our referendum and the proposed amendment are two different things. Although the MTA referendum’s wording is different than the wording of the proposed amendment, I believe the referendum maintains the clarity of the amendment’s purpose. The writer’s criticism of the proposed amendment based on the number of words (185 by his count) seems without merit when one realizes that both the 12th Amendment (1804; changing the way the president and the vice president were elected) and the 14th Amendment (1868; addressing citizenship, due process, and equal protection for former slaves) each have more than 400 words.
While the writer does admit that most of the downsides he shares are based on his own interpretation of the text in the proposed amendment, I have to admit that I still do not know how to best respond to fictitious and implausible scenarios and non sequiturs that describe a constitutional world running amuck, supposedly all because of this proposed amendment.
What I do know is this: Despite the efforts of legislators like Sens. John McCain (R–Arizona) and Russ Feingold (D–Wisconsin) to reduce campaign financing abuses, as a result of recent Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and McCutcheon vs. F.E.C., the floodgates have been opened, and money in politics has our country looking much more like an oligarchy than a democracy. I’d say it’s our country’s politics that are already taking us down a road to “a warm place” regardless of any good intentions from MTA.
Those who benefit from the system as it exists today are not going to fix it. As citizens we have to take responsibility for reclaiming democracy lost and do something to fix the system. Politicians need to be freed from the indebtedness of their funders so they can truly represent the people they are elected to serve. Our constitution’s preamble states, “We the People,” not “We the Corporations.”
Under the laws of the state and federal government, corporations have certain rights, privileges, and protections as well as responsibilities, but corporations are not people. I believe this amendment would, indeed, take away personhood from corporations and return rights and some influence of government to the people.
Simply put, the MTA referendum would state that Platteville supports an amendment that says (1) only human beings — not corporations, unions, nonprofit organizations or similar groups — are endowed with constitutional rights, and (2) money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech. If people want to work toward getting big money out of politics, I encourage them to sign the petition when a MTA circulator visits their neighborhood during these last few days of signature collection.
Since the writer critical of Move To Amend concluded his letter with a quote for his friends at Move To Amend, I offer the following quote from one of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson: “I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations.”
Save the GAB
As a former Republican state representative serving the Neenah–Menasha area from 1961 to 1971, I follow Wisconsin politics and government closely. Currently, there are two bills moving through the legislature at breakneck speed. I suggest leaders in both the assembly and senate slow down this runaway train to allow for the public to become better educated on the content of the legislation and to give legislators adequate time to study the fine points of both bills.
Senate Bill 294 was introduced by Sen. Fitzgerald and Rep. Vos on Oct. 9 and Senate Bill 292 was introduced by several Republican legislators from both houses on Oct. 8. the gist of SB294 would dismantle the current nonpartisan Government Accountability Board and replace it with two new commissions, one for ethics and one for elections. SB 292 would double the amount of money entering campaigns by creating higher donor limits. These are major changes that will have long-term implications for clean government in Wisconsin and thusly require greater scrutiny and thoughtful review.
I traveled to Madison to attend the joint committee hearing Oct. 13, a mere handful of days after introduction of these important legislative initiatives! I sat through the entire long day of testimony and offered my thoughts to the committee at the end of the hearing. I requested the committee put the brakes on fast-tracking these bills and hold hearings outstate to gather input from the public. It appears that my request has been ignored and the Assembly is set to vote on SB 292 and SB 294 today, less than two weeks after introduction. I suspect a vote in the Senate won’t be far behind.
Essentially, SB 295 replaces the GAB, the nonpartisan board comprised of six retired judges, with a partisan ethics commission and a partisan election commission. The GAB has done a fine job of keeping our elections clean and working with municipal clerks in administering state elections law. Rather than changing the entire nonpartisan judicial appointment model and going to two partisan commissions, the Legislature should look to make changes to the current GAB by requiring greater oversight of staff by the boarfd and reining in the perceived autonomy of staff in decision-making on ethics investigations.
In regard to SB 292: There is already too much money in our elections. The idea that we need to double the amount of contributions is ludicrous. Incumbents like campaign donations and this is an incumbent campaign fund padding initiative. SB 292 should not be passed. The Legislature should be working toward moving big money from unnamed sources out of campaigns and keep donations from citizens at a reasonable amount.
David O. Martin
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. “Thank you” letters will not be printed. All letters and columns represent the views of the writers and not necessarily the views of The Platteville Journal.