By Jesse Wood
Oct. 19, 2012. A campaign finance reform workshop will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 25, at the Watauga County Public Library to discuss issues concerning money and elections in the U.S. – with the long-term goal of overturning Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a ruling that allows unlimited campaign expenditures by corporations and wealthy individuals.
With the help of Public Citizen, a national nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, local resident Paula Finck will facilitate the “round-table” discussion.
After the Thursday meeting, citizens interested will gather at polling places with a petition on Election Day to educate residents and collect signatures of those who are disgusted at the amount of money in politics.
After enough signatures have been gathered, the petitions will be taken to local town councils and county commissioners asking for a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
Brian Eister, grassroots organizer for Public Citizen, said more than 300 towns and cities, seven states and 127 members of congress have passed the resolution, which states essentially that money is not speech and can be regulated and a corporation is not a person and can be regulated as well. Majorities from both houses of two other states signed a letter of intent regarding these proposals but did not sign the resolution.
With some many politicians – and media conglomerates – already benefiting from the excess of campaign expenditures, Eister understands how difficult a task it is to overturn Citizens United, which invalidated numerous campaign finance laws across the nation, including a 100-year-old law in Montana called the Corrupt Practices Act.
“You have to create such a powerful grassroots consensus that [the politicians] know that if they don’t stand behind this amendment they are going to lose their jobs,” Eister said. “It’s going to need two-thirds of congress and three-fourths of state [legislatures], but polling tells us very clearly that Americans are absolutely fed up with the amount of money in politics and the corruption that it causes.”
Eister is quick to point out that this movement is not partisan. He cites Republican Ariz. Sen. John McCain, who has been a vocal opponent of Citizens United and called the ruling “the worst decision ever.” McCain also said, “Money is money – not speech” and called Citizens United “arrogant, uninformed and naive.”
“It’s not about parties. It’s about democracy,” Eister said.
As for the meeting on Thursday, Finck said she doesn’t consider herself an expert on the subject and also doesn’t want people to feel as if she is the leader of the group or the meeting, which will be an open discussion.
“It’s run by the people,” Finck said.
For more information about the meeting at the Watauga County Public Library, call Finck at 828-963-1164.