NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

October 31, 2012

How about backing what isn't controversial

As I See It John Harwood
Newburyport Daily News

---- — Thankfully, the election is almost here, with its candidates and ballot questions. Finally … you may say.

What about after Nov. 6? Do we just wait for the next election? Certainly not, because regardless of which candidates win, and which party controls the House and Senate in Washington, there is a fundamental issue that this election will only begin to resolve, partly because little attention has been paid to it in debates or news coverage.

An explanation for this inattention is that it’s not controversial. I’m speaking of a ballot question facing voters in the Newburyport area and in many other Massachusetts communities. You won’t find information about this issue in the excellent guide distributed by the secretary of state, because that mailing covers only statewide questions.

Is there way too much money being heaped onto our campaigns, often anonymously and sometimes with foreign entanglements? That’s the essence.

The text of the question is:

Shall the state representative from this district be instructed to vote in favor of a resolution calling upon Congress to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution affirming that (1) corporations are not entitled to the constitutional rights of human beings, and (2) both Congress and the States may place limits on political contributions and political spending?

You can believe what you’ve read in this case, because it is not controversial – that’s the point. Hardly anyone likes all this type and volume of spending on our elections, regardless of political party affiliation; hardly anyone, if we’re talking about natural persons - you and me.

However, if instead of using your common sense, you go by what five Supreme Court justices fantasized in their 2010 decision known as Citizens United, then corporations and unions are people, too. They don’t want to go back to being creations of natural persons as the founders clearly intended. They don’t want to go back to being businesses that provide jobs or unions that represent workers, and leave the voting to voters, rather than using their union millions and corporate billions as speech.

It’s the mountains of money in elections and bogus corporate personhood that’s on the Nov. 6 ballot, a chance in the first place for us to tell our state representatives and senators that they did the right thing when they voted this summer to make Massachusetts the seventh state to seek a 28th constitutional amendment, which will lay the foundation for cleaning up the mess the Supreme Court has dumped us into.

Nine states have asked for a Democracy Amendment; two-thirds is what the Constitution requires to force action. But even when three-quarters of the states vote to make it a part of the Constitution, that will be just the end of phase one. If all that hasn’t stirred up a hornets nest in Washington, DC - with so many lobbyists’ livings and usurpation of people’s rights on the line – the campaign finance laws that Congress must then reinstate and/or enact and the president sign will certainly make inside the Beltway look like a hurricane fighting a tornado.

You probably have questions about this issue and want to know how you can get them answered. Newburyport area voters will have that opportunity on Friday, Nov. 2, when a ballot question information night is scheduled, 7-9, at the firefighters hall behind the Newbury Town Hall.

The main speakers will the candidates in the 1st Essex state representative race, Lenny Mirra, Republican, and Barry Fogel, Democrat, who are both concerned about excessive campaign spending, emphasizing the non-partisan nature of this issue.

The moderators will be Kathy Lique, founder of Move To Amend North Shore, one of the sponsors, and myself. The other sponsor is the Social Action Committee, First Religious Society, Unitarian Universalist, Newburyport.

See you at your polling place on Nov. 6.

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John Harwood of Newbury is a retired community journalist and a patriot.