Question 2, the forgotten middle child on the November ballot, lacks the punch of the other two questions. For good reason: arguably, it doesn’t do much.
All the question would do is create an unpaid state commission to study ways to amend the US Constitution to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court decision that loosened rules on corporate and union money in politics. Its eventual report could form the basis of a constitutional amendment to pitch to other states, in hopes of marshalling support in the 38 states it would take to change the Constitution. Or, it could be ignored.
The Globe endorses a yes vote — with some misgivings. If such a commission is to have any wider national impact, it needs to have a genuinely varied makeup. Diversity can’t mean that members come from different parts of Jamaica Plain: They need to be drawn from different ideological backgrounds too.
The ballot question, though, would require members to pledge their fealty to its stated goal. The purpose, organizers say, is to avoid commissioners who oppose its very existence and would frustrate the whole project.
But we’d feel better — and bet the public in this state and others would feel better, too — if civil liberties groups like the ACLU had a seat at the table, even though the organization supported Citizens United. Skeptical conservative voices should be included, too.
There is, as Question 2’s critics have pointed out, a danger of overreach in any effort to overturn Citizens United. Corporate personhood, as an idea, is an important legal concept. And any new constitutional restrictions on speech need to be handled with extreme care. The goal of a commission should be to excise the extension of political speech rights to corporate entities as surgically as possible, without disturbing other First Amendment rights or causing economic havoc.
The commission, after all, has no formal power and will only be as good as its work. Massachusetts can’t change the Constitution on its own. If Question 2 is to amount to anything, the commission it would create needs members with an open mind and a willingness to air fundamental disagreements.
If voters want to curb corporate money in politics, a yes vote on Question 2 gets the ball rolling.