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THE ARGUMENT

Should Massachusetts support a Constitutional change limiting election spending and establishing that corporations do not have the same rights as humans?

YES

Jeff Clements

Concord resident; president of American Promise, a national group that works to reduce the role of money in politics; former Massachusetts assistant attorney general

Jeff Clements
Jeff Clements(Handout)

On Nov. 6, we won’t just be voting for our local, state, and federal representatives; with Question 2, we can help restore our American promise of equal citizenship and effective government of the people.

Voting “yes” on Question 2 creates a citizens commission in Massachusetts to advance an amendment to the United States Constitution that would limit the influence of money in elections and establish that corporations do not have the same rights as human beings.

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At the core of our national covenant is the principle of “one person, one vote.” Every American, no matter how rich or how poor, is an equal citizen. But in a series of controversial 5-4 decisions by the Supreme Court, including the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, the Court allowed billionaires, corporations, and wealthy special interests to dominate our political discourse with big money. This money effectively dictates who runs, who wins, who governs, what issues “matter,” and what issues don’t.

With corruption and dysfunctional government increasingly the norm, we the people need to step up. Voting yes on Question 2 is how we do it. With this citizen commission, we can take action together to help protect the integrity of elections and government; prevent corruption; secure the right of all Americans to be represented and to participate in self-government; and protect freedom of speech and of the press for all.

The proposed citizen commission would provide credible information to the people about the role of money in our politics and make sure our elected representatives work across partisan lines to advance the urgently needed 28th Amendment. And, because it’s a volunteer commission, it won’t cost taxpayers a dime.

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We in Massachusetts can lead this reform but we are not alone. In the past few years, 19 states and nearly 800 cities and towns have passed resolutions with cross-partisan support (often exceeding 75 percent) (cq) to call for this constitutional amendment. Now Massachusetts will be the first to put teeth into these resolutions with our non-partisan citizen commission. Vote “yes” on Question 2 for the country and the future so that people, not money, govern America.

NO

Marc Mercier

Boxford resident; litigation consultant; Libertarian candidate for 5th District Governor’s Councilor

Marc Mercier
Marc Mercier(Handout)

Question 2 on the November state ballot seeks, ultimately, a constitutional amendment that would effectively place restrictions on Americans’ rights of free speech and free association. The fundamental purpose of the Constitution is to preserve rights. No amendment has ever been enacted which runs counter to that purpose. This one would.

Proponents are pushing this under the misconception that the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case was a bad outcome for individuals. It wasn’t. It restored the right of people to affiliate, for a common purpose, via an organization of their choosing, and to have their voices heard by their government representatives.

If poor and middle class citizens are not free to pool their resources to make impactful political donations, then only wealthy individuals will be able to afford to do so.

Government currently has the power to craft legislation favoring special interest groups, to grant tax breaks to corporations, and to effectively issue direct handouts through excessively profitable contracts. This is unfair. Our response as voters and citizens should be focused on reducing that power by returning to a more limited role of government. Question 2 does not address government power.

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Thus, the goal put forward by supporters of the amendment to end crony capitalism and corruption is a good one, but their effort is misplaced. Instead they should focus on reducing the government’s ability to engage in corporate welfare, not focus on reducing the right of people through organizing to support their chosen candidates. That is a restriction of free speech.

Proponents argue that corporations are not people. They are not. However, corporations are affiliations of people, acting for common purpose, whose rights should not be restricted. The Supreme Court understood this when deciding Citizens United.

The power of any idea is magnified when people are free to associate together and pool their resources to influence the world around them - just as the amendment proponents are doing. This freedom is even more important when the government is seeking to act against people’s rights - as this proposed amendment would.

Free speech and free association are fundamental and should be preserved.

This is an informal poll, not a scientific survey. Please vote only once.


As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. Anyone interested in suggesting a topic or writing a piece can contact him at laidler@globe.com.