Dane County Board mulls adding referendum on corporate political spending

2010-12-14T18:19:00Z 2010-12-19T09:00:09Z Dane County Board mulls adding referendum on corporate political spendingSTEVEN VERBURG | sverburg@madison.com | 608-252-6118 madison.com

Dane County Board members are considering placing an advisory referendum on the April 15 ballot asking voters whether they would support a federal constitutional amendment restricting corporate election spending.

The proposal is a reaction to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in January allowing corporations to pump unlimited money into election campaigns anonymously, said county Sup. Patrick Downing, District 30, the main sponsor for the measure.

Transparency is crucial to the public's ability to know who is influencing elections and elected officials, Downing said Tuesday.

"We should be able to see if donors are getting something in return," Downing said.

The proposed ballot language calls for an amendment establishing that regulation of political campaign spending does not limit free speech, and that constitutional rights are for humans, not corporations. 

Activists around the country have been working on similar efforts, but not everyone agrees.

County Sup. Eileen Bruskewitz, District 25, said she sides with the court decision.

"In this country, speech depends on money, so inhibiting that speech is not a good idea," Bruskewitz said.

An amendment would have to be approved by three-fourths of the states, and by Congress or a constitutional convention. 

The board will consider the proposal at its meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday in Room 201, City-County Building, 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

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