Why You Don’t Hear About Overturning Citizens United in Wisconsin Capitol

by Matthew Rothschild, Executive Director

October 11, 2017

Rep. Scott Allen
Rep. Scott Allen

On Tuesday, Oct. 10, the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Constitution and Ethics held its first public hearing since this session opened 141 days ago.

On Oct. 4, two Democratic legislators, Representative Lisa Subeck and Senator Dave Hansen, had asked the Republican committee chair, Scott Allen, to put on the agenda their bill for an advisory referendum on amending the U.S. Constitution to overturn Citizens United.

The bill in the Assembly is AJR 53, and it reads:

“The U.S. Supreme Court's decisions in Citizens United and related cases allow unlimited spending to influence local, state, and federal elections. To allow all Americans to have an equal say in our democracy, shall Wisconsin's congressional delegation support, and the Wisconsin
legislature ratify, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution stating:

  1. Only human beings—not corporations, unions, nonprofit organizations, or similar associations—are endowed with constitutional rights, and
  2. Money is not speech, and therefore limiting political contributions and spending is not equivalent to restricting political speech?"

Chairman Allen not only denied their request. He ridiculed it, calling it “politics at its worst.” He wrote, in his Oct. 5 response, “Advisory referenda have no legal force or effect, and can only be intended to mislead voters….Is the goal of AJR 53 to turn a legitimate Wisconsin election into an illegitimate polling operation for the benefit of a political cause?”

(The last advisory referendum on the statewide ballot in Wisconsin was in November 2006, and it was on the death penalty.)

Rep. Lisa Subeck
Rep. Lisa Subeck

Subeck responded in a press release Oct.10, saying: “It is stunning that Representative Scott Allen considers giving the average Wisconsinite the opportunity to have their say at the ballot box to be ‘politics at its worst.’ Wisconsinites are fed up with the massive corporate and special interest spending Citizens United has ushered into our elections, and it is time to let them be heard.”

The nonprofit group Wisconsin United to Amend has helped 115 communities in Wisconsin pass resolutions or referendums in favor of overturning Citizens United and passing such an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Nineteen legislatures in other states have also signed on.

It’s outrageous that Chairman Allen won’t even allow this to be put on the agenda. This is the Constitution and Ethics Committee, after all. And Citizens United has torn a hole into our Constitution, drowning out our free speech rights as citizens, and ushering in all sorts of ethical problems.

Please contact Representative Scott Allen and urge him to hold another hearing – and demand that this time he let the people speak about the urgent need to proclaim, once and for all, that corporations aren’t persons and money isn’t speech.

Representative Allen can be reached at: (608) 266-8580 or (888) 534-0097.

His email is: Rep.Allen@legis.wisconsin.gov

WDC Executive Director Matthew Rothschild
Matthew Rothschild
WDC Executive Director

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