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Communities vote to curb money interests in politics

On Nov. 8, Wisconsin residents in 19 communities will vote on whether to amend the U.S. Constitution to make clear — a corporation is not a person and money is not speech.

Voters will cast ballots in Rock County, Reedsburg, Manitowoc, Delafield, Neshkoro, New Glarus, Spring Valley, Osceola, Mt. Horeb, Monticello, Milltown, Clayton and the towns of New Glarus, Harris, Springdale, Decatur, Mount Pleasant, Cadiz and Lake Tomahawk.

If all vote in favor, this will bring to 97 the number of Wisconsin communities that have called for the "We the People" amendment. Nationwide, 17 state legislatures have done likewise, as have more than 700 towns, villages, cities, and counties.

The Douglas County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution in favor of the amendment on June 20, 2013, becoming the 10th in Wisconsin to support it.

"We cannot solve any of the pressing issues in front of our country as long as our politicians do not represent us and they won't until we get the big money out of politics," said Evan Wright, a reformer in Polk County. "I see reform as the most important effort for my generation and, while I am too young to vote, I can help build the grassroots movement needed to fix it."

Multiple polls show more than 90 percent of Americans, regardless of party, think special interest money has too much influence in American political campaigns.

"The big money in politics mutes the voices of the citizens, and all our problems will continue until we change that," said Kathy Bernhart, the United to Amend leader in Manitowoc.

Former State Sen. Dale Schultz, summed it up well. "We're talking about billionaires turning this country into a Russian-style oligarchy, where there are two dozen billionaires who buy the whole political process ... we are awash in money because of Citizens United, and it puts good people in both parties in a difficult situation."

One volunteer, Bill Waser of Reedsburg, expressed frustration: "Citizens in 78 Wisconsin communities have passed resolutions calling for an amendment. We need state legislators to put it on a statewide ballot, but they won't even let the bills have a public hearing."

The root of the problem runs deeper than Citizens United. Over a century ago, Robert M. La Follette spoke out against corruption wrought by the "concessions and privileges" given to corporations by legislators.

"Why," he asked, "in a government where the people are sovereign, why are these things tolerated?"

United to Amend is a nonpartisan, grassroots movement. For more information, go to wiuta.org.

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