Ask most Wisconsinites if corporations are people, and they’ll likely say “no,” regardless of political affiliation. The issue of money in politics is equally non-partisan. In fact, many Wisconsinites would like to see unlimited spending removed from the political equation. That’s why a grassroots campaign to reverse Citizens United is picking up steam in all corners of the state. United Wisconsin is launching its petition drive this weekend in Wauwatosa, and those interested are encouraged to join in the effort.
First, a little background on the issue, from United Wisconsin:
Since the Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case January of 2010, the landscape of American politics has change dramatically. The ruling, which essentially argued that corporations are entitled to the same rights as people, and that election spending by corporations is “free speech,” and therefore political spending cannot be limited, has led to out of control spending on our elections by big money special interests, and has deepened the fundraising dependence of our elected officials on special interest groups.
In the 2010 mid-term elections, we got our first taste of life in the post-Citizens United world. Some of the staggering results were:
- Over $300 million dollars was spent on political advertising by outside interest groups
- This election saw more money spent than in every mid-term since 1990 COMBINED
- 72% of the money spent by groups would have been prohibited before the ruling
- The percentage of spending from undisclosed donors went from 1% to 47%
The 2012 presidential election saw more special interest money than any other in history. What’s worse is the increasing control of just a few wealthy people over our elections, with over 80% of the Super PAC money is controlled by only 196 wealthy individuals.
But the situation is not hopeless:
Since the ruling, 13 states have officially called for an amendment to the constitution to reverse this ruling, with the state of Maine becoming the 13th state just this past week. It is the mission of United Wisconsin to add Wisconsin to this list.
An amendment has to be proposed either by a 2/3 vote of both houses of Congress, or else by a constitutional convention convened when the legislatures of 2/3 of the states so request. The amendment has to be ratified either by the legislatures of 3/4 of the states, or by conventions in 3/4 of the states, depending on which means of ratification Congress proposes.
There has already been some success here in Wisconsin:
Just this past April, voters in Chippewa County and the cities of Whitewater and Fort Atkinson passed advisory referendums calling for the reversal of Citizens United, joining other counties and cities across Wisconsin that have taken the same action since 2010.
That’s where United Wisconsin’s petition drive comes in:
To continue this movement, United Wisconsin is kicking off petition drives to pass local referendums in cities and towns across Wisconsin, and is launching petition drives right now in Southeastern Wisconsin – starting with the City of Wauwatosa, followed by Shorewood and Whitefish Bay this July – with many more to come.
Each Saturday, starting May 11th and running through July 6th, United Wisconsin’s volunteer office located at 7026 W North Ave in Wauwatosa is open from 10am to 4pm, and will be hosting door-to-door canvasses along with our partners Grassroots Wauwatosa and Move To Amend-Milwaukee to collect the petition signatures needed to put the referendum on the ballot.
Said Erik Kirkstein of United Wisconsin, “It has been just over three years since the ruling, and over that time, 13 states and over 500 municipalities have taken action and called for a constitutional amendment. This is nothing short of amazing.
By taking action locally, we are keeping this movement alive and strong, and demonstrating to our elected officials that the people have had enough of the corrupting influence of big money in politics, and are demanding our democracy back…This movement is only as strong as those willing to get involved and make it succeed.”
Those interested in volunteering with United Wisconsin can sign up for 2-hour shifts starting at 10am and 1pm each Saturday. Click here to sign up.