City Council talks ‘money as speech’
By Hank Beckman For The Sun April 17, 2012 9:40PM
Updated: May 19, 2012 8:24AM
Some citizens speak before the Naperville City Council seeking a zoning variance, while others talk about city business. Still others just want to vent their feelings on a particular topic.
Naperville resident Keith Klingeman is a little more ambitious.
Klingeman wants nothing less than to amend the Constitution of the United States, and he’d prefer that Naperville’s City Council lends its support.
“I come here tonight for a redress of grievances,” Klingeman told the City Council Tuesday. “Our democracy has been lost.”
Klingeman is a local representative of the “Move to Amend” movement that seeks to amend the Constitution to in their words “abolish corporate personhood and the doctrine of money as speech” during elections.
At issue for Klingeman, and the six other people who addressed the council on the subject, is the 2009 Supreme Court ruling “Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission,” which overturned part of a federal election law and held that corporations and unions are allowed to spend an unlimited amount of money on electioneering activities due to First Amendment guarantees.
“Money is not speech,” Klingeman said, “and corporations are not people.”
Klingeman spoke against the “gift-giving mentality in Washington, D.C,” and likened the money donated to campaigns and politicians as “quid pro quo bribery.”
Klingeman’s group of supporters echoed his sentiments.
“Money dominates and perverts our political process,” Steve Macek said.
Kathy Frank said that the Citizens United decision overturned 100 years of legal precedents, stressing that, “secret money is a cancer on society.”
Virginia Wisdom said that it was not a partisan issue and Steve Alesch said that “human beings are people; corporations are legal fictions.”
The group claims many other communities have expressed support for the movement, including New York City, Madison, Wis., and 64 cities in Vermont. Recently at the Lisle Township annual Town Meeting, participants voted to put an advisory referendum on the fall ballot in the township on the issue.
When the group presented a resolution affirming the city of Naperville’s support of the movement, Mayor A. George Pradel thanked them and said the city’s legal department would review it.
But some City Council members had reservations about the idea.
Councilman Steve Chirico asked if union money would be regulated by the amendment, noting that many “super-PACS (political action committees) were formed in response to the influence of union money.”
“I wouldn’t support this unless it was all-inclusive,” he said.
Chirico was assured that unions would be included.
Councilman Grant Wehrli said there is a key distinction between corporations and citizens.
“Corporations can’t vote, but citizens can,” he said. “We have something even more powerful and that’s one vote.”
Alesch said that the group’s ultimate goal was the public funding of elections.
, which he said could be financed for $10 per year from voters.
Klingeman said that the group would wait and see what action, if any, the City Council took, but promised to continue the fight against corporate money in elections.
“We’ll be back,” he said.