To my fellow Watertown voters,
On Nov. 6, in Watertown Districts A, B, and C, just under 63 percent of us voted “Yes” on a non-binding ballot question that supported a constitutional amendment to reverse the effects of the infamous 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC. On Dec. 11, a group of concerned citizens (including your author) will ask the Watertown Town Council to consider a resolution urging our state and federal representatives to work toward that constitutional amendment to reinstate reasonable limits on outside funding in our elections, and to ensure that the strongest voices on election day are yours, and mine, and our fellow citizens’.
And we need your support.
Seventy-four Massachusetts cities and towns have already passed similar resolutions, including our neighbors in Boston, Newton, Arlington, Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, Needham, and Natick. Hundreds of other towns around the country have taken similar steps, and many have also recently passed ballot questions as we did at the beginning of this month. But a Town Council resolution would be far from superfluous at this point; election funding is and will remain an important local issue, and we need to take every available opportunity to make
our voices heard. The Citizens United decision didn’t just apply to national elections. Voters in places like Durham, N.C., and Oklahoma City have already seen secretive and well-funded outside groups working to swing local elections to support favorable zoning decisions or development opportunities. A little bit of outside money can make a big difference on a local scale, and Citizens United created a dangerous opportunity for undisclosed political contributions to have a real impact in our neighborhoods.
Citizens United is a decision that affects all of us, in Watertown and around the country, regardless of our particular views or party affiliations. The Center for Responsive Politics estimates total spending in the 2012 election at an unprecedented $6 billion, including nearly $1 billion spent by outside organizations in support of both Republican and Democratic candidates. But this issue isn’t just bipartisan – it’s nonpartisan. A 2012 Associated Press poll showed that 81 percent of Republicans, 78 percent of independents, and 85 percent of Democrats want to
limit corporate, union, and outside spending. Protecting the basic ideals of our Republic – that as citizens our voices, and our votes, must be counted, and that your vote will count the same as mine – demands fair and reasonable oversight of the electoral process. That’s what we’ll be arguing for when we place a proposal in front of our neighbors on the Watertown Town Council on Dec. 11. Here, on our own Main Street, in our most direct venue for democracy, we’ll be adding our voices to a growing chorus calling for the preservation of open and transparent elections and for the curtailment of undisclosed and unlimited spending in those elections, through an amendment to the very Constitution that ensures our right to make these demands in the first place. We hope you’ll read more about this issue, that you’ll be in touch with your local, state, and federal representatives, and that you’ll consider coming by the meeting on Dec. 11. Above all, make sure your voice continues to be heard.