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Winchester Residents Attempting to Overturn Supreme Court Ruling

Susan Verdicchio and Vern Blodgett have submitted an article in the Town Meeting warrant that asks members to support a resolution which calls for the overturning of the Supreme Court Case "Citizens' United v. Federal Elections Commission.

Two Winchester residents will be asking Town Meeting in April to support a resolution which would overturn a Supreme Court ruling made in January 2010. 

Susan Verdicchio and Vern Blodgett submitted Article 8 for this spring’s annual Town Meeting, which asks members to approve a resolution that calls “Congress to pass and send to the states a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens’ United v. Federal Elections Commission and restore democracy to the people.”

According to Verdicchio, the ruling prohibited the government from restricting political payments from corporations.

The article says that the “Supreme Court has transformed the First Amendment into a powerful tool for corporations seeking to evade and invalidate democratically-enacted reforms.” And that the ruling “overturned longstanding precedent prohibiting corporations from spending their general treasury funds in our elections.”

One side effect from the ruling, according to Verdicchio, is the creation of Super Political Action Committees, which are free to spend as much money as they want to support their candidate.

“We’re seeing these Political Action Committees effect the presidential race,” Verdicchio said. “It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how this could effect state or local elections.”

Verdicchio and Blodgett point to the current spending in the Republican Primaries as an example of how corporations could potentially hijack elections.

They say that this Supreme Court case “will now unleash a torrent of corporate money in our political process unmatched by any campaign expenditure totals in United States history.” And that the ruling “presents a serious and direct threat to our democracy.”

“We’re not anti-capitalism,” Blodgett said. “This is about having an even playing field, the way it’s supposed to be. The rights of humans are in place and the rights of corporations should be for corporations, they shouldn’t be the equivalent of people.”

According to Verdicchio, the ruling should be overturned because corporations should not be allowed to have protections under the First Amendment.

“Corporations are an artificial entity,” she said. “They’re immortal; they can’t vote; they can’t be drafted. There’s a lot of precedent to the idea that corporations aren’t people.”

“Corporations can now make massive campaign contributions,” Blodgett said. “They have lobbyist down in Congress. Corporations are in control when it’s supposed to be the people that are in control.”

At Town Meeting, Verdicchio will ask members to pass the resolution, showing Winchester’s support for overturning the Supreme Court ruling.

The resolution “calls upon the United States Congress to pass and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment to restore the First Amendment and fair elections to the people.”

OldTownie March 21, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Please don't turn Winchester in to Brookline. Oh and by the way... Sergeant Hulka: Son, there ain't no draft no more.
JT March 21, 2012 at 05:10 PM
"Restore democracy to the people?" Please, that's a whole different issue--too long to discuss in a "comment section." "The idea that EITHER political party could "potentially highjack elections," as this article states, through what it calls "corporate spending" should cause everyone to worry if union spending could do the same. Is this addressed in Verdicchio and Blodgett's resolution? After all, "what's good for the goose, is good for the gander."
Sally K. Dale March 21, 2012 at 09:36 PM
I heartily support Susan and Vern's Town Meeting Article. Citizens United is possibly the most corrosive and undermining ruling the Supreme Court has made in the last century. It is an utterly outrageous notion to think that that our nation's ideals of justice and equality are being be served by allowing self-interested entities with bottomless pits of money to manipulate our public policy dialog and influence voters' decision-making processes by flooding our media with misstatements and distortions of facts that ultimately serve ONLY their corporate interests. Kudos to Susan and Vern. I am with you, and I believe that millions of other Americans are too!
OldTownie March 21, 2012 at 09:47 PM
And you, along with the millions of others that feel the same way, have the right to speak your opinion. Why do you feel the need to limit others?
JT March 22, 2012 at 05:01 AM
Free speech is a right of every American citizen. Corporations are made up of citizens; so are unions, and the people who make up both groups have a right to speak their mind. Now no persons or groups should be misleading the public through the media, but it's a fact that this happens. If this resolution is an attempt to correct that problem, it should do so fairly. Again, the bottom-line question about this resolution still remains; does it address union money as well as corporate money because both are more than capable of what "Working boomer mom" refers to as "flooding our media with distortions of facts" that are self-serving.
dusty cronin March 22, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Well spoken JT, thumbs up.
Susan Verdicchio March 22, 2012 at 03:28 PM
It is not accurate to say a corporation is "made up" of citizens, or even of people. A corporation can be owned by another corporation, or several other corporations, or partly owned by people (US citizens or foreign) and partly owned by one or more domestic or foreign corporations, or a pension or mutual fund, an estate, a trustee, etc., etc. Unless a corporation's shares are sold to the public in the US there's no way of knowing who owns it. Ownership of multinational companies is widely dispersed. A corporation is a just not the same thing as a human being. It's an artificial entity, formed for one or more specific purposes, that exists and operates under laws (that have been enacted by legislatures, elected by the people).
Susan Verdicchio March 22, 2012 at 03:42 PM
The Citizens' United case involved a corporation, not a union, and the Court’s ruling explicitly spoke to free speech rights of corporations.  The federal law the Court was interpreting, the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act, referred to unions. Part of the problem is the Court's broad decision swept aside carefully drafted, thoroughly debated legislation designed to balance the need to protect free speech against the need to protect our electoral process from distortion or corruption caused by huge amounts of cash. The resolution focuses on corporations because the Supreme Court did. The resolution calls for a constitutional amendment to clarify the situation and allow Congress, and state legislatures, some power to regulate campaign spending (by all forms of entities -- nonprofits, corporations, unions, trade groups) without being deemed to violate the First Amendment free speech rights of corporations. A similar resolution is pending in the state legislature.
OldTownie March 22, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Why is this an issue for TM? If you want to show members of Congress that millions of people feel the way you do then start a campaign and do that. IMO, TM is setup to run the business of the town, not as a place for you, or anybody else, to voice your/their opinions on matters outside the scope of TM.
Joe Papile March 23, 2012 at 03:54 PM
I could write volumes on this, but I only have 1500 characters. Bottom line is that it is entirely accurate to say that corporations are made up of citizens/people. No mater how you slice it & dice it you are still talking about human beings who own, operate and invest in corporations, and all have constitutional rights (foreign investors included). Also, all corporations (privately held or publicly traded) are still private property and are treated as such by state and federal law. If I were to apply your reasoning to other groups of humans that come together for a common cause, then public and private unions and guilds should be treated the same as corps. As an owner/president, CEO and major stockholder of 4 corporations in my lifetime, I know full well of the abusive FORCE of government. I have become use to the fact that the left uses the coercive force of government to relieve me of my basic rights just because I own a business. As long as government has such intrusive powers over my private property rights, I demand my right to petition the government on behalf of myself and my businesses. I am for free speech rights for all. Want to fix it? Join forces with me and repeal the 16th amendment and institute the Fair Tax (national sales tax) as constitutional law. You will find that once government is prevented from illegally confiscating businesses private property, business will stay away from government. We have much better things to do with our time, effort and money
JT March 24, 2012 at 05:35 AM
You may have to plough back to when a corp./etc.,was first established,but the bottom line is,the original piece of the pie was PEOPLE; so whether a corp. is made up of people/etc.,or some combination thereof,without the people,you don't have the pie.The people decide/donate the money given to political campaigns/ads. You say the Repub. Primaries were an example of how corp.'s could "potentially hijack elections," and also the reason why you want to overturn the SC ruling that essentially upheld "free speech." Dem. contributions from corp.'s/unions helped political campaigns gain an "electoral edge" as well. According to ABC News,the Dem.Gov.'s Assoc. raised $23.1M in 2009 for that purpose. Millions of $$ are being pumped into a MA senate race by "big Hollywood interests" that don't even have a stake in MA gov't.-"Manipulative"? Should the SC be asked to restrict these voices too? Speech from some "media voices" spewing disgusting rhetoric,some directed at women from Hillary Clinton to Laura Ingraham, are "manipulative," without even donating a penny. What say you here? Trying to restrict "free speech" with legislation is a "slippery slope;" dangerous on the way down,and even more so on the way up. That being said,"Townie" was correct in suggesting this issue should not be part of TM's agenda.TM's prioity should be town business. Lobby Congress for your cause if you wish, that is your right, but this is not a matter TM needs to address.
Susan Verdicchio March 24, 2012 at 12:18 PM
Unlimited corporate independent expenditures in campaigns affects all levels of government: state or local as well as federal. Town Meeting Representatives, the Selectmen, School Committee, all are elected. It would be wrong to bog down Town Meeting with every issue or controversy in the news, but this one directly relates to the electoral process at all levels. Longstanding state-law limits on corporate campaign spending are being held unconstitutional in the wake of Citizens United.
Don Daniel March 26, 2012 at 03:36 PM
The bulk of this nonpartisan issue is campaign finance reform. I am sick of the negative ads and the sickening tone that politics has taken since the incredibly bad Supreme Court decision, Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission. This has bastardized the democratic process by equating the yells of money to the voice of the people. The ability to spend unlimited cash in an attempt to brainwash voters by flooding the airwaves with spin and deceit must end.
OldTownie March 26, 2012 at 04:20 PM
So are you doing this to protect the 'brainwashed voters'? You obviously are smart enough to not be brainwashed but you support the protecting of the rest of us? Some of us don't want your type of protection at all.
quasimodo March 27, 2012 at 02:11 AM
@ Joe Papile You are totally wrong. As our government taken away you "basic rights" as an idividual, Mr. Joe Papile? Of course not. Has our government taken each of your investors' basic rights? Of course it has not.
Joe Papile March 27, 2012 at 07:53 PM
@ quasimodo Wow quasimodo, where do I begin? Your answer to my rebuttal to Ms. Verdicchio is basically “say it isn’t so”. Your only rebuttal is to say “of course not”. Those “basic rights” you put in quotes are our inalienable rights (unalterable rights) as outlined in the constitution. I am a student of the constitution, the federalist papers, the extensive writings of the founding fathers concerning the drafting of the constitution and a long study of how the founders of the country and drafters of the constitution governed when they were elected to office (most important in determining their meaning of the laws). I had to do this (it’s called self defense). To give you just one example of “basic rights” violation, may I be your “seeing eye guide” and point to the very article we are responding to. Here is the 1st amendment of the constitution; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”. That’s it. Do you see any statement in there that says “except if you own a business or corporation”? The 10th amendment prevents those rights (or any other) from being negatively altered. We had to go to the Supreme Court to get back rights that we NEVER should have lost in the first place. Want more? Let me know.
dusty cronin April 05, 2012 at 12:40 PM
The more I read of Susan's argument the more it sounds as if she's complaining about the current corrupt administration and it's own fund raising / spending practices. That's marvelous, oh, who uses that word any more.
Susan Verdicchio April 05, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Protecting the integrity of elections is a bipartisan issue. There will always be money in politics, but if our government is to remain "of the people, by the people, and for the people" there must be a level playing field and meaningful disclosure in campaign finance. That was what McCain-Feingold, the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act, was all about. http://www.reuters.com/article/video/idUSBRE82Q13P20120327?videoId=232365493
OldTownie April 05, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Congress can pass whatever laws they want. The laws can then be challenged. This law was deemed no good by SCOTUS. Not the first time either, 1789-2002 Acts of Congress Held as Unconstitutional..............................158 Please take your case to Markey, Brown, or Kerry and leave this out of TM.
Susan Verdicchio April 08, 2012 at 08:41 PM
The U. S. Constitution controls government at all levels -- state and local as well as federal. So Citizens United invalidates state laws on campaign finance, potentially impacting state and municipal elections. Imagine a large real estate development company that wanted to build a new project in a community; it could spend any amount of money it wished to influence local elections for Board of Selectmen or Zoning or Planning Boards.
OldTownie April 09, 2012 at 06:00 PM
I believe that is the 'Supremecy Clause', correct? So when SCOTUS ruled that Congress was wrong it meant that all similar state and local rules are just as wrong. You may not agree but a majority of the court ruled and so it shall be until a new law/ammendment is passed. TM will not be a party to either of those processes. Why would you want to stifle a company's ability to make its argument about what it has an interest in? Let people, companies, unions, etc. spend their money any way they want, I don't care. Tell somebody/something how they can, cannot, or must spend their/its money (for legal purposes obviously) and you are getting away from what made this country great.
quasimodo April 10, 2012 at 03:16 PM
@Joe Papile Being a student of the Constitution, etc, does not mean you have superior knowledge of it: when I was teaching, I had a whole classroom full of students, and most of them were mediocre or poor students. And if you were one of my students, I would first expect that you answer my question, which in this case was: AS Joe Papile, US citizen, has our Government ever prevented you from speaking up your mind, assembling peacefully, or even petitioning it for a redress of grievances? Of course not. Under the Constitution, you have as many rights as I have, as anybody else have, no more no less. You certainly have the right to join an assembly of like-minded people and present your grievances, but this assembly of persons is certainly NOT a "person."
Joe Papile April 14, 2012 at 08:52 PM
@quasimodo I see you have reduced this debate to calling me an uneducated liar, so allow me to be blunt. If I were you I would go back to the university where you got your educational degree, and where ever you got your teaching credentials and sue them all, as it is obvious that they failed you. I thank God I was not one of your students. I was educated in a time (50’s & 60’s) when an unbiased education was provided instead of the socialist indoctrination of today. I answered your question in my last rebuttal; the United States Government and each of the 50 states (not 59 as your fearless leader that occupies the White House thinks) recognizes & treats, BY LAW, corporations the same as a “person”, thus giving corporations the same protections. That’s the law, and just saying that it isn’t so does not change the law. If you are an educator you should know the reasoning behind this, I do. That’s why SCOTUS found for Citizens’ United. The fact that you make assumptions of the life I have lived and the experiences I have had betrays you. OF COURSE I HAVE HAD MY RIGHTS ATTACKED. Your arguments force me to assume that you could have never owned a business/corp, have never hired employees, provided them with a living and had to meet a payroll every week (I have). If you had, you would understand that you cannot separate the company and the rights from the people who own it (our state & federal governments do not – who are you to claim different).
CM April 21, 2012 at 08:24 PM
I heartily agree! Perhaps those leading the charge on this have spent too long in a little town with not much else to occupy their time. This topic is much better argued through our elected officials. Don't we have better things to think about than overturning a supreme court ruling?
BAV April 21, 2012 at 10:48 PM
CM: "This topic is much better argued through our elected officials." I am equivocal on this issue. However, Town Meeting members are elected officials. They will either approve or reject this measure. I agree that the practical implications of approval or rejection are essentially nil. However, to limit the right of citizens to petition town meeting, through proper channels, regarding any issue that they may choose would seem to be contrary to the democratic principles that we believe in. I suppose people could disagree on this point.

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