PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Wisconsin supporters of the effort to overturn a U.S. Supreme Court decision impacting campaign finance law had reason to celebrate after Tuesday’s elections.
However, a long road remains in the herculean attempt to change the U.S. Constitution.
Voters in Belmont, Darlington, Lancaster and Platteville each passed advisory referendums in favor of a constitutional amendment stating only people have constitutional rights.
The language intentionally excludes corporations, unions, nonprofits and similar associations from holding constitutional rights and states that “the regulation of political contributions is not equivalent to limiting political speech.”
The 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission essentially opened the door to unlimited political spending by corporations and unions.
The referendums passed with strong margins. The measure passed with 250 votes in support — 87 percent of votes cast — to 35 against in Belmont. About 81 percent of Darlington voters supported the measure, which passed 612 to 145.
In Lancaster, 85 percent of voters supported the measure, which passed 780 to 138. About 84 percent of Platteville voters supported the measure, which passed on a 2,738 to 528 vote.
Ray Spellman, leader for the nonpartisan Wisconsin United to Amend campaign in Darlington, said the results make clear the will of local citizens.
“Everybody understands this issue at a gut level,” said Spellman. “They understand that if (politicians) take the money, then you’re obligated to the source of that money, whether that’s said or unsaid, and the point of it is the politicians don’t like it either.”
The language of the advisory referendum directs city clerks in each community to forward copies of the resolutions to state and federal representatives “with instructions to enact resolutions and legislation to advance this effort.”
The group leaders said 16 states already have passed resolutions calling for a national constitutional convention. Wisconsin would be the 17th state to call for a convention if the Legislature acts. Thirty-four states are necessary for the convention.
Even getting the issue in front of state legislators will be difficult, acknowledged group co-chairman Charlie Clark, of Platteville.
“We’re talking about a few communities in Wisconsin, but it takes many communities in Wisconsin to pressure legislators to do something at the state level,” Clark said.
Clark and Dick Rundell, another activist in Platteville, said they will consider meeting individually with legislators to help communicate what they believe to be the importance of the issue.
State Rep. Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City, and Rep. Todd Novak, R-Darlington, did not immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment.