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Local group attempts to amend Constitution over Citizens United decision

The petition, “Move to Amend: South Central Indiana,” stems from a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the Court recognized corporations as people with the ability to endorse election candidates under the First Amendment.

This could lead to those with more money dominating the democratic process, said Charlotte Zietlow, the group’s press secretary.

“There are a lot of people who feel that’s just not right,” she said.

People nationwide are looking at this Constitutional amendment, which would essentially overturn the 2010 Supreme Court decision by arguing corporations aren’t protected by the Constitution in the same way as individual speech.

The informal Bloomington group has joined the cause against the Citizens United decision and held a meeting three weeks ago with about 70 people in attendance, Zietlow said. A smaller group is meeting weekly.

Zietlow said two choices exist to change the Supreme Court decision. The first option is for Congress to create a law.

The second option, which Zietlow said is the best, is to amend the Constitution.

“We believe (the decision) was a misreading of the Constitution,” she said.

The purpose of the amendment is “to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights,” the  petition reads.

“The hope would be it would level the playing field again and make it less likely for one or two people to spend indiscriminately their own money ... to affect the election,” Zietlow said.

Because candidates spend their time raising money for elections, they aren’t addressing issues, she said.

The goal is to gather 3,000 petition signatures by the end of March.

The petition would then go to the Bloomington City Council and the Monroe County Council.

Tim Mayer, president of the Bloomington City Council, said groups contacting the councils isn’t unusual and has happened before with national and international cases.

In the past, groups presented before the city council and conducted one-on-one discussions with city council members to seek support. If the city council decides to go forward, it would create a resolution, publicize it and consider it for approval.

Next, Congressional delegates in Washington would be notified. Mayer said groups could go straight to their delegates, but going through local government adds more
weight to the message.

"It’s just another level of support,” he said.

Some oppose this process, Mayer said, because they believe the councils have little impact in an issue that isn’t necessarily local. However, Mayer believes it’s an opportunity for citizens to voice their opinions.

“I don’t see that as a waste of time or taxpayer money,” he said.

As of last Tuesday, New Mexico and Hawaii have approved a bill that supports the amendment.

The next steps for the group include gathering support and educating the public about the matter, which Zietlow said expands across all political affiliations.

“It is not a partisan issue,” she said. “It is a citizen issue.”

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