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Watertown Town Council Passes on Taking Stand on Reversing Citizens United Ruling

Councilors will send a letter outlining town voters' support of the non-binding ballot measure asking for the Supreme Courts decision in the political finance question to be overturned.

The Town Council will not take a stand on a citizen’s petition to asking the board to support a movement asking Congress to reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, but they will send a letter outlining the town’s support of the non-binding ballot measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.

A group of residents collected 188 signatures and got the resolution on Tuesday’s Town Council agenda.

Bevin Croft, who spoke for the group who put the resolution on the agenda, noted that 63 percent of the town’s voters in Districts A, B and C supported the ballot measure asking the town’s state and federal elected officials to take steps to reverse the court decision that gives corporations and unions the same political speech rights as citizens.

The ballot measure did not appear on ballots in District D, on the Westside of Watertown.

State Rep. Jonathan Hecht said he supports reversing the decision because it would help legislators like himself.

“The Supreme Court decision overturned 100 years of settled law that corporations are not the same as a person when it comes to political speech,” Hecht said.

To serve constituents, Hecht said, legislators have to be able to show they are acting in the best interest of residents, not the groups donating large amounts of money.

Not everyone at the meeting believed the issue was an appropriate one for the Town Council to take up. Russ Arico said he wanted the Council to focus on issues that directly affect Watertown, or else he fears the council will be inundated with resolutions from all kinds of groups.

“Do not vote on it. Do not discuss it. Let it die,” Arico said. “Let us preserve this beautiful place we call Watertown and leave non-Watertown issues at the door.”

The Council did not discuss the resolution, but Town Council President Mark Sideris suggested they write a letter to send to Watertown’s elected state and federal officials outlining how the town voted on the ballot measure. Councilors unanimously supported writing the letter.

The move satisfied both groups at the meeting.

John Mosca, who also opposed the council discussing the resolution, said he thought the move was appropriate.

 “It is reasonable,” Mosca said. “It doesn’t take up too much time and I think the vote (in the Nov. 6 election) told the story.”

Dave Weintraub, one of the organizers of the petition to get the resolution on the Council agenda, also felt satisfied.

“It was very efficient,” Weintraub said. “They gave everybody a chance to be heard, and the resolution received a respectful hearing.”

craig Clevidence December 13, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Americans who are concerned about their representative democracy would be well advised to consider supporting the Renew Democracy Amendment proposal. It states: "The right of the individual qualified citizen voter to participate in and directly elect all candidates by popular vote in all pertinent local, state, and federal elections shall not be denied or abridged and the right to vote is limited to individuals. The right to contribute to political campaigns and political parties is held solely by individual citizens. Political campaign and political party contributions shall not exceed an amount reasonably affordable by the average American. The rights of all groups, associations and organizations to other political speech may be regulated by Congress but only as to volume and not content and only to protect the right of the individual voter’s voice to be heard." The Renew Democracy Amendment would create a constitutional guarantee of the right to vote and directly elect all candidates for whom they were qualified to vote. It would eliminate the Electoral College and it would restore the power of the individual voter by requiring our representatives to be funded solely by the individual voter. The RDA would create a campaign funding system in which nearly any American could be a politician's largest donor. It would also render moot concerns about corporate personage as no organization could contribute. Read more at http://www.renewdemocracy.org
John DiMascio December 13, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Than GOD the framers of the Constitution had the wisdom NOT to give us a Democracy, but a REPUBLIC. Free Speech by any entity doesn't constitute a threat to the Republic. Limiting Free Speech does. The same crowd that less then 10 years ago were worried about the civil liberties of terrorists, now want pass a Constitutional Amendment to limit free speech. What a joke!
craig Clevidence December 13, 2012 at 11:50 PM
John, The United States form of government is a representative democracy. The vast majority of Americans, as evidenced by a great deal of polling data feel that our government is broken and that the cause is the influence of money in politics. If your conception of free speech is unlimited political donations than free speech certainly does constitute a threat to our nation. The Renew Democracy Amendment does not limit political expression and or free speech of individuals. It does propose constitutional limitations to campaign and political party donations for all groups and organizations. Just as organizations cannot vote there is no inherent free speech right for organizations to contribute to political campaigns. If all of the individuals that constitute an organization can express themselves freely and contribute to the limit, what free-speech right would be repressed by not allowing groups and organization to utilize the aggregation of economic power to exert direct political influence through campaign and party contributions? We are not currently nor have we ever been involved in the civil liberty rights of terrorists. Please see the definition of a "straw man argument"
John DiMascio December 14, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Fact: Two current Councilors and other members of the Watertown Citizens for the Environment and their Social Justice organization, are involved and promoting this in Watertown. Fact: These same citizens are well know for their activity and agenda which includes protecting the "civil liberty of terrorists." In 2004 they proposed a resolution to council respecting the USA Patriot Act. Fact: These same people were associated with a self proclaimed Socialist Leslie Cagan. Fact: This movement includes a group called Democratic Socialists of America. Fact: Just because you change the name of group or start a new group, you can't hide who you are. It's the same people. Fact: entities, be they a group, or individuals have the right to advocate their position. Fact: We are a Republic. Yes we are a representative Democracy. But we are Republic. A Democracy is based on majority rule. Our Federal Government is a Republic in which both the people are represented, but also the Sovereign States are represented. The majority cannot take away the rights of the minority. And that is why we are a Constitutional Republic.
craig Clevidence December 14, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Although this conversation is getting far afield from my original post intended to introduce the concepts of the Renew Democracy Amendment to the good people of Watertown, I will take the bait. First, there really is no debate of the facts that the United States' form of government is a representative constitutional democracy organized as a republic. As we have a Constitution and Bill of Rights that prevents the tyranny of the majority, so it is obvious that a democracy can do just that. It is my strong hunch that your objections live mostly in word associations. Democracy sounds like a Democrat and Republic sounds like Republican. While you are extolling the virtues of a republic please take a little refresher and look up what the R in USSR stood for. And yes the word socialist is in there also.
craig Clevidence December 14, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Did you realize that you too are a socialist John? If you drive your car on our nation's roads and bridges then you are a socialist. If you or your children attended public schools and universities then you are a socialist. If your house is hooked up to municipal water, sewer and power then you are a socialist. If you are protected by the police, fire department and our extraordinary Armed Forces, then you are a socialist. If you go to the public library then you are a socialist. Obviously I could go on but the point is that divisiveness based on semantics is churlish and childish. We are all Americans, with much more in common than what divides us. We may have differing ideas as to how to make our nation better but that is the goal of virtually all of us and so if we share a common goal and purpose then we should and must be able to work together to get there or we will not evolve as a nation. For nations, just as any other organism, must evolve or be swept aside.
craig Clevidence December 14, 2012 at 03:43 PM
As an additional note, the RDA would not in any way infringe on the rights of individuals, groups, or any other entity to organize and advocate any position. The RDA proposal would delineate that groups and organizations cannot contribute to political campaigns or political parties. That means no money to grease the pay for play legislative system and that our political representatives would be solely reliant on funding from the voters. The problem with our current system is motivation. Our representatives are motivated to represent the organizations and wealthy individuals who paid for their campaign. Whether there is a direct quid pro quo or not, the result remains the same in that our representatives are not concerned about representing their constituency but instead concerned about representing their donors.
John DiMascio December 14, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Craig, we already have limits on how much can be contributed to campaign. As it relates to PACS, I'd be more than happy to talk about transparency. We ought to know who is giving to these PACS. But when we start talking about limiting people's, or corporate entities' ability to advocate for their concerns, I have a problem. Let's start with transparency. Let's find out where the money is from. Let's improve campaign finance laws. For instance when you contribute over a certain to campaigns, you must disclose where you work. That's a good idea. Let's see if a law firm or lobby is using it's workers to contribute money. Now let's improve on that transparency. I want to know if you belong to a union. In particular a public employee union. Not all government worker belong to them. So I want to know if you do. Because there is conflict of interest there.So I wouldn't outlaw the contribution. But I want to know if my state rep or state senator, is being funded by those who get paid by the government. And if you're on public assistance of any kind other than Social Security, Disability, or Medicare, which you paid in to, the voters ought to know about it. If you're going to school on the taxpayers' dime, if you're doing anything on the taxpayer's dime people should know about. Lets get things in the open. And we don't need to Amend the Constitution to do so.
John DiMascio December 14, 2012 at 04:24 PM
One last point. Comparing streets and public infrastructure to socialism is absurd. Socialism deals with "redistribution of wealth" and the limiting people's ability to earn what market is willing to pay them.
craig Clevidence December 14, 2012 at 05:32 PM
As I previously stated. And as you could read from the RDA proposal, no one is talking about limiting people's or corporate entities abilities to advocate for their concerns. We are talking about the voter being the sole financial support for campaigns and parties. The overwhelming message of the recent Supreme Court decisions concerning campaign finance is that there is no constitutional support for limits to campaign contributions. So far individual contribution limits have not been challenged but the First Amendment is plain and it is likely that they would be held unconstitutional and unenforceable by the current court as that was the rationale behind Citizens United and strictly speaking it is legally correct. That is why an amendment is necessary
craig Clevidence December 14, 2012 at 05:33 PM
As far as the socialism label argument goes, streets and public infrastructure are the perfect example of socialism. That just doesn't fit with your slanted interpretation of socialism equals bad. Look up your history and you will find that toll roads and bridges were the first experiment in public transportation in early America. Although there are still a few toll roads, the public has universally determined the collective or socialist solution is superior to paying a toll every time you cross a bridge or travel a mile or so of Highway. And here's a word to the wise, all government deals with "redistribution of wealth". The real problem is of course that when people understand the amount of socialist tendencies we already have the epitaph of socialist loses its pejorative value.

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