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Voters reject language modeled after Citizens United in referendum

April 2, 2014

Wauwatosa residents joined 12 other Wisconsin communities in voting against language modeled after the Supreme Court case known as Citizens United, which opted to not ban political spending, Tuesday.

The local vote was 4,056 in favor of the referendum question and 2,286 opposed.

By voting "yes," Wauwatosa voters agree to instruct state and federal representatives to regulate political contributions and spending while upholding the constitutional rights of human beings — not corporations. This is a direct rejection of Citizens United.

The language of the referendum was modeled after Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, a 2010 Supreme Court decision to not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections. The 5-4 decision overruled two precedents, Austin V. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, which upheld restrictions on corporate spending. The referendum did not actually mention the court case on the ballot.

United Wisconsin, an activist group, launched a petition against Citizens United last year. Grassroots Tosa assisted the petition drive in collecting 3,800 signatures to get the direct legislation referendum on the ballot.

Grassroots Tosa said it "is very pleased that Wauwatosa residents have voted overwhelmingly to send a message that only human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights," according to a news release.

Sixteen states and 500 communities across the nation have gone on record in support of the effort known as Move to Amend, the statement said.

"If the Common Council wants to take more action, it will have to take that action after the new people are sworn in," City Attorney Alan Kesner said. "But I don't know that they will. My impression is that the message will be self-implementing, and the people who are working on it — like Grassroots Tosa — will move forward with their efforts."

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