ABOUT TOWN: Stoughton Selectmen Support Removing Corporate Money from Elections
Welcome to "About Town with Mark Snyder," a column that will keep you up to the minute with what's what, who's who and what's going on around town. If you see or hear something we could use here, let us know by sending an e-mail to email@example.com.
STOUGHTON SELECTMEN SUPPORT OVERTURNING SUPREME COURT'S "CITIZEN UNITED" CAMPAIGN FINANCING DECISION:
The Stoughton Board of Selectmen voted 4-1 on Tuesday, July 10, to endorse a Moveon.org petition, presented by Steve Wilkinson of the Stoughton Democratic Town Committee, to overturn the Citizens United decision of the United States Supreme Court.
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 50 (2010), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions.
The nonprofit corporation Citizens United wanted to air a film critical of then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and to advertise the film during television broadcasts in apparent violation of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (commonly known as the McCain–Feingold Act or "BCRA").
In a tight 5–4 decision, the Court held that portions of BCRA violated the First Amendment. Some contend that this decision just invites a money war by companies to control elections.
But, the Supreme Court makes decisions when it comes to law, not right-wing or left-wing groups.
Would the Board of Selectmen support the overturning of the Obamacare decision by the Supreme Court if proposed by the Tea Party?
I couldn't believe that Cynthia Walsh, John Stagnone, Bob O'Regan (an attorney), and John Anzivino would be in lock step with Moveon.org. The only Selectman to vote against it was Steve Anastos. Congratulations to him for voting not to support the overturning of the Supreme Court.
Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, "praised" MoveOn for "10 years of making even people who agree with them cringe." They claim 9 million members, and support "progressive Democratic candidates."
I thought maybe our Board should concentrate on STOUGHTON issues, and not national elections. We have enough concerns right here. But, after talking with Board members, I can even understand where they're at.
Board Chairman John Stagnone tells About Town: "It was a request from a resident. The resident made the case and the Board supported it. The petitioner provided links to information, as well as other towns that had supported it."
When asked why the Board was getting involved in national campaigns, by what some would call a left-wing organization, Stagnone responded, "Other towns have done it. We're not supporting moveon.org, but a petition. We'll consider any citizen petitions."
Board member Bob O'Regan, who is an attorney, said, "The vote wasn't to support a radical left movement. It was a petition to correct a Supreme Court decision. If you're a local government, depending on the State and Federal government to function well, then elections need to be fair and open. That's not done when special interest groups support Super Pacs. I supported the proposed legislative action to correct the defect that the Supreme Court found in the law."
O'Regan added, "The Supreme Court decided a particular law was not constitutional. Congress can fix that. The big question is, how do you prevent big dollars from special interest groups from perverting the voting process?"
Finally, Selectman John Anzivino felt strongly about how big corporate money was affecting elections.
He told me, "I don't believe that corporations should be able to put money into campaigns. They are NOT people. They have a lot more money to give than individuals. The majority of our Board agreed."
As for the Moveon.org source of the petition, Anzivino said that, "If you associate it with that organization, some eyebrows may have been raised. That could be a surprise when people discover where it came from. But, I was supporting the idea of removing corporate money from the equation."
Selectman Steve Anastos, who was sole vote against it, told me he didn't even think it belonged on the agenda.
"Why don't we focus on stuff that is way more important?," he said. "If we're going to discuss something of national significance and implications, why not the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan? It was formed under a bipartisan commission, with supporters on both sides of the aisle, as well as corporate support? Why don't we pass it and deal with our spiraling deficit?"
Cynthia Walsh said simply that the petitioner was from Stoughton, and that she agreed with the petitioner.
"I don't agree with the Supreme Court that companies are people," Walsh said. "We should limit corporate donations, in the same way that individuals are limited on what they can give."
Editor's Note: to read another take on the Board's decision to support a resolution for a Constitutional Amendment overturning the "Citizens United" decision, click here to see a blog post on Stoughton Patch by Michael Horan.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TODAY: To Stoughton's Marcy Zuck, a Woodbridge, CT. native, who graduated from Roger Williams College. She plays a key role in making sure Stoughton's annual Party All Night Long post-graduation bash is a success.
HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY: To Jill Somers, a scientist at Novartis, and member of the Energy & Sustainability Committee; to Stoughton's Lynn Sousa Andrade of AMS Grinding. She is the daughter of former selectman Tony Sousa and his wife, Diane; to Stoughton Firefighter Buddy O'Neil; to Ellen Evangelista, a Hyde Park gal, who lives in Stoughton now. Her husband Bob is the President of Stoyac. They all celebrated Wednesday!