Revised: I wrote this story a few month ago for the Seattle Weekly and posted on my blog reverse citizens united, but it still holds relevance in regards to what’s happening in Seattle as of right now.
Monday 7/13 2:00pm City Council will vote to place Honest Elections (I-122) on this Nov ballot in Seattle.
If passed, will be the first voter voucher program in the country that gives tax collected money to voters for them to give to whichever candidates they so choose.
However, because of the citizens united decision, they cannot make donations illegal or limit them in any way, and therefore it would be an opt in system.
Candidates will have to agree to the donor limitations if they want to be eligible to receive vouchers from the public. Now, in a progressive city like Seattle this might work, but it certainly wouldn’t work in every city.
In other words, citizens united and it’s subsequent rulings are still in control of our democracy, and this piece talks to members of wolf-pac.com Washington and their fight to amend the constitution in order to regain the voice of the many.
Icons by Brennan Moring.
Late last month, campaign-finance-reform activists got some good news when a bill calling for a constitutional convention was assured consideration in the House State Government Committee in Olympia. The aim of the convention would be to propose “a free and fair elections amendment” to the U.S. Constitution. That amendment would nullify the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling inCitizens United v. FEC, which lifted all restrictions on independent corporate-funded advocacy regarding elections. But there is a long way to go before that happens. What is the path forward, and what are the pitfalls?
The Convention: Article V of the Constitution provides two paths to an amendment. One is through the will of the U.S. Congress. The other—currently being pushed by a national activist group called Wolf PAC—goes through the states and requires two-thirds of their legislatures to request a constitutional convention. Such bills have been passed in four states—Vermont, California, Illinois, and New Jersey. Washington, some activists hope, will be next. So once every week, a few Wolf PAC volunteers spend the day at the capitol attempting to build support for the bill. “Right now it’s stuck in committee and there’s no motion likely until 2016,” says Washington’s Wolf PAC leader Jeff Eidsness. “So what we need to do is inoculate as many people as we can against all the fears.”
The Runaway Convention: State Senator Jamie Pedersen is no enemy of campaign-finance reform, having endorsed several attempted measures in the past. But the 43rd District democrat believes a constitutional convention could cause trouble. “I think if you open up the Constitution, you could potentially have a convention that would make much more dramatic changes to [it],” he says. “Would we ban flag-burning? Would we be doing something about person-hood beginning at conception? I don’t know what things might be in there. There are a lot of pieces of the Constitution that are very protective of minority rights or the right of the accused that aren’t necessarily popular.”
The Congressional Amendment: Eidsness says the “runaway convention” is a “myth,” but he wouldn’t mind avoiding the whole affair either. Drawing on history, he explains how the threat of a convention can be enough to exact change. “With the 17th amendment, they were two states away from actually having a convention, at which point Congress is like, ‘Yeah, we better do this’ because they want the credit,” he says. “I don’t think a convention is going to happen, but we need to ask for it. The convention is not the goal, the amendment is the goal . . . History shows us that calling for a convention is the only legitimate way that people who aren’t arbitrarily wealthy can influence Congress to do the will of the people.”