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NH Towns Favor Getting Money Out of Politics

PHOTO: Ellen Read says she pushed hard in Newmarket, N.H., to get the town council to take up a resolution against the Citizens United decision. Photo credit: Ellen Read
PHOTO: Ellen Read says she pushed hard in Newmarket, N.H., to get the town council to take up a resolution against the Citizens United decision. Photo credit: Ellen Read
March 13, 2014

LYME, N.H. – At annual town meetings across New Hampshire this week, citizens are voting on resolutions supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn a U.S. Supreme Court decision called Citizens United that has allowed billions of dollars from special interests to flow into election campaigns.

Rick Bourdon went to his transfer station in Lyme to collect signatures on a petition to get the measure on the agenda, because that's where people congregate in small towns. He said most people were very willing to support it.

"One fellow said this is the most important problem,” he related. “This sits above everything else, because we won't get anywhere on any other issue until we solve this one."

Bourdon said the voice vote in favor was overwhelming at Tuesday's meeting, about 140 to 2. Twenty-seven of 32 towns passed similar resolutions Tuesday.

The resolution urges the New Hampshire state Legislature to call on Congress to advance a constitutional amendment to regulate political spending and clarify that constitutional rights are for human beings only, not corporations or unions.

Ellen Read said she pushed hard in her town of Newmarket to get the town council to take up a similar resolution.

"There have been several Supreme Court decisions that have taken power away from people in our government and given it over to monied organizations, powerful organizations,” she said. “And we believe that in a democracy you shouldn't have to have money to have a voice in your government."

The council vote was unanimous in favor.

Jonah Minkoff-Zern, who works with Public Citizen's Democracy Is for People campaign, supported residents' efforts to get resolutions on town meeting agendas, and was pleased with how the votes are going.

"The large number of resolutions passing in New Hampshire towns send a clear message to the New Hampshire Legislature that they, too, should support a constitutional amendment," he said.

Another two dozen towns with resolutions to get money out of politics will hold their annual town meetings on Friday.

Polls show the call to overturn Citizens United is popular across the political spectrum in New Hampshire.

Seventy-two percent of residents have said they oppose the Citizens United ruling, and 69 percent would support a constitutional amendment that limits corporate campaign contributions and spending.

Sixteen other states, including all the other New England states, have already called for such an amendment.

UPDATE: As of March 18, 47 towns passed the resolution and 12 defeated it -- a 4 to 1 margin in favor.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - NH