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Local News

April 3, 2012

Citizen's petition asks vote on amendment

NEWBURY — Signatures were filed March 27 with the town clerk for a citizen's petition that calls on Congress to pass and send to the states for ratification a Constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The petition seeks a vote at the May 22 annual Town Meeting.

After town counsel reviews the document and the town clerk verifies that 10 registered voters have signed it, it will be sent to selectmen to place on the warrant.

On the same day the Newbury petition was filed, the Newburyport City Council unanimously adopted a resolution regarding the same court decision. A similar article has been submitted for the April 27 West Newbury annual Town Meeting via a citizen's petition.

"This 5-4 Supreme Court decision has unleashed a flood of money into our democracy that is choking the unique role of voters in selecting our elected officials, especially at the state and national levels," according to John Harwood, one of those who initiated the citizen's petition.

He said he was inspired to join the national movement by his church, after the 2011 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association adopted an Action of Immediate Witness that urged member congregations, including the First Religious Society in Newburyport, to support a 28th amendment to the Constitution. Other towns and cities, state legislatures and even Congress itself have adopted or are considering a similar step.

Harwood's wife, Joan, who helped circulate the petition, noted that in his book "Corporations Are Not People," author Jeffrey Clements emphasizes that some of the corporations that are heaping money on candidates aren't even U.S. or foreign firms; they are global businesses controlled by institutions, the super rich and even other countries all over the world.

"That's not free speech; that's foreign control of our democracy," she said.

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