Vermont Voters Tackle Citizens United
Voters across the country head to the polls today in the Republican primary Super Tuesday. But with all the focus on the presidential nomination it’s easy to overlook that voters in states like Vermont will be choosing more than just a challenger to President Obama.
That’s because all across the state Vermont voters will be voting on local resolutions challenging corporate personhood. Nearly 50 towns will vote on initiatives calling on Vermont legislators and the state’s congressional delegation to overturn the Citizens United decision with a constitutional amendment.
The initiatives call on the Vermont Legislature and congressional delegation to support a constitutional amendment that clarifies that money is not speech and corporations are not people. If passed such an amendment would make it possible for Congress to limit election-related expenditures by for-profit corporations, nonprofits, unions and individuals.
“Vermonters are taking a lead in the growing movement for a constitutional amendment to limit the influence of big money and corporations in our democracy,” said Aquene Freechild, senior organizer with Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People campaign. Public Citizen – along with Move to Amend/Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Vermont Peace and Justice Center, VPIRG, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, Rural Vermont, Common Cause Vermont, Occupy Burlington, Vermonters Say Corporations Are Not People, Vermont Action for Peace, Vermont Workers Center, and Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (co-founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream) – has worked with Vermont activists to collect signatures and get the resolutions on town meeting agendas.
The towns with ballot measures challenging corporate personhood include Albany, Barnet, Brattleboro, Bristol, Burlington, Calais, Charlotte, Chester, Chittenden, Craftsbury, East Montpelier, Fayston, Fletcher, Greensboro, Hardwick, Hinesburg, Jericho, Lincoln, Marlboro, Marshfield, Monkton, Montgomery, Montpelier, Moretown, Mount Holly, Norwich, Plainfield, Putney, Richmond, Ripton, Roxbury, Rutland City, Rutland Town, Sharon, Shrewsbury, South Burlington, Starksboro, Sudbury, Thetford, Tunbridge, Waitsfield, Walden, Warren, Waltham, Williamstown, Williston, Winooski, Windsor, Woodbury, Woodstock and Worcester. The list is also available at www.citizen.org/Towns.
A state resolution – introduced by state Sen. Virginia “Ginny” Lyons and currently in the Senate Government Operations Committee – calls on the Vermont delegation to support an amendment clarifying that corporations are not people under the U.S. Constitution. Lyons was also a leader in starting the town meeting effort, working with diverse groups to put forth sample language.
It’s a movement that is gaining momentum and shows the power and faith that remains in our democracy. Citizens United has wrecked a heavy toll on our electoral process, but we can fight back, and the citizens of Vermont are showing us how.
Photo from Theresa Thompson via flickr.