County looking for input on money in politics in ballot question

Sophia Voight, Asst. News Editor

Winnebago County is looking for county residents’ input on support for a constitutional amendment that would reinstate control on campaign spending. The oft-debated topic of campaign contributions in politics has made its way onto hundreds of other ballots around the country before being placed on ours.

The referendum reads: “Should the state legislature enact propose legislation to support passage of an amendment to the United States Constitution that seeks to reclaim democracy from the expansion of corporate personhood rights and the corrupting influence of unlimited political contributions and spending?”

The referendum references the ability of corporations and special interest groups to spend an unlimited amount of money on elections.

As it currently stands, independent donors, or groups not clearly affiliated with a candidate, are not given limitations on the amount of money they can spend on their own campaign contributions for or against any one candidate.

The unlimited campaign finance rule comes from a 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that overturned an FEC act that prohibited corporations and unions from broadcasting advertisements mentioning a candidate in any context within 30 days before a primary election or 60 days before the general election, arguing that these limitations on campaign advertisements violated the First Amendment.

The proposed legislation referenced in the Winnebago County referendum is advocating for a constitutional amendment that would basically overturn the 2010 Supreme Court ruling.

The proposal asks that limits on political campaigning be restored for corporations and wealthy donors. It also asks that corporations not be given the same First Amendment protections as citizens in regard to broadcasting political ads and contributing to candidate’s campaigns.

An answer of YES on the ballot question indicates you believe there should be an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would limit political contributions and spending and the expansion of corporate personhood rights.

An answer of NO on the ballot question indicates you believe there should not be a limit to political contributions and spending and the expansion of corporate personhood rights.

The ballot question is merely an advisory referendum for the county board to gain the public’s opinion on the amount of support for and against limiting political contributions and corporate personhood rights.

A vote in favor of these limitations wouldn’t have any impact on local or state statutes. If the referendum gets enough “yes” votes, the county board may sponsor the proposed legislation to the state legislature.

Any legislation would still need to be approved by Congress before limits on political contributions are put in place.