March 28, 2013
More than 18,000 Wisconsinites have signed a petition calling for a statewide vote to put Wisconsin on record against Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates to special interest money in elections. The petition requests a statewide referendum, which must be approved by legislators and the governor. If the proposed ballot initiative passes, Wisconsin would join 11 states that have already voted in favor of overturning Citizens United and allowing laws to limit election spending.
A coalition of 26 Wisconsin organizations, including the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, have come together over the past month to collect 18,070 signatures on petitions calling for a statewide vote on the issue. Communities including Eau Claire County, Dane County and West Allis have already held similar votes. Referendum questions will appear on next Tuesday's spring election ballot in Chippewa County as well as the cities of Fort Atkinson and Whitewater.
The Citizens United ruling along with a series of other court decisions allowed corporations, unions, and wealthy individuals to funnel their money into Super PACs and dark money groups running attack ads. The 2011 and 2012 recall elections, the 2011 state Supreme Court election, and the November 2012 presidential and U.S. Senate elections all attracted major spending by outside special interest groups, mostly from outside Wisconsin, trying to influence election results. For example, the Democracy Campaign found that interest groups accounted for well over half of the $137.5 million spent on the recall elections. In addition, $30 million in out-of-state money poured into last year's U.S. Senate contest in Wisconsin, as corporate CEOs and wealthy individuals from across the country unleashed a torrent of money to influence this race.
The 26 Wisconsin organizations calling for a statewide referendum are: WISPIRG, People For the American Way, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Center for Media and Democracy, South Central Wisconsin Move To Amend, Move to Amend of Southeast Wisconsin, Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, 9 to 5, United Wisconsin, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Madison Area Urban Ministry, the Wisconsin chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, United Council of UW Students, Wisconsin Farmers Union, AFT-Wisconsin, Madison Teachers Inc., Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, Midwest Environmental Advocates, Peace Action Wisconsin, the John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club, Door County Environmental Council, South West Wisconsin Area Progressives, Reedsburg Area Concerned Citizens, One Wisconsin Now and Progressive Dane.