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IL Group: Campaign Spending Amendment Too "Watered Down"

PHOTO: Illinois Move to Amend says a constitutional amendment proposed to overturn the results of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision isn't broad enough to do the job. Photo credit:  Keven/Rossell/morguefile.
PHOTO: Illinois Move to Amend says a constitutional amendment proposed to overturn the results of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision isn't broad enough to do the job. Photo credit: Keven/Rossell/morguefile.
July 10, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - A vote is expected in Washington Thursday on a constitutional amendment giving Congress and the states control of political campaign spending.

But some Illinoisans working to end 'corporate personhood' say it doesn't go far enough.

Kaye Gamble, coordinator for Illinois Move to Amend, called Senate Joint Resolution 19 a "half-way measure," and said it doesn't make it clear enough that corporations are not people, and that money isn't speech.

"When we get an amendment, we want it to be comprehensive," Gamble said. "We'll probably only have one shot at it, and we don't want it watered down."

Illinois Move to Amend wants to expand the amendment to include banning the concept of corporate personhood, which Gamble said would help get money out of politics.

The amendment's opponents say it violates the First Amendment by giving the government power to restrict citizens' ability to engage in political speech. But supporters say it strengthens and restores constitutional rights.

SJR 19 was introduced in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling. It said that corporations, unions and associations have the same free speech rights as individuals to contribute money to political campaigns.

According to Gamble, the ruling has resulted in the American people not being truly represented.

"The people are left out of our government," said Gamble. "Because only the rich can pay for politicians to run. That reinforces their tax cuts and laws that help them, and aren't necessarily for the good of the people."

Several Illinois cities and towns have passed resolutions against corporate personhood, including Champaign Township, Warrenville and Chicago. But Gamble said many people are still unfamiliar with the issue, so her group will continue its education efforts.

"We feel like we need a movement because things are so drastic," said Gamble, "like the suffragette movement and the civil rights movement to change things."

Forty-three Senate Democrats have co-sponsored SJR 19, which was introduced by New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL