Ballot question shows local support for PAC limits

November 9, 2012
Kate Thayer

Supporters hope to persuade state to appeal to Congress for action

Some Chicago-area voters this week were asked to weigh in on the issue of corporate spending in political campaigns as part of a movement with the ultimate goal of amending the U.S. Constitution to change the way elections are financed.

"There's too much big, soft money sloshing around," said Lyle Hyde Jr., of Chicago, an organizer behind the advisory ballot question in Chicago. The question, which also appeared on some suburban and downstate ballots, asked voters if they would support a constitutional amendment that would, in effect, set limits on political contributions from big corporations.

About 74 percent of Chicago voters backed that notion, and suburban and downstate questions garnered similar results. Dubbed the "Move to Amend" movement, the effort targets the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United, which allowed corporations and unions to spend without limits on campaigns.

The proposal also earned more than 60 percent voter approval in Kane County, Warrenville, and Lisle, Oak Park, Northfield and Avon townships, surpassing 70 and 80 percent in some areas, according to unofficial vote totals.

"We're not surprised, but we're certainly very happy," said Steve Alesch of DuPage Move to Amend and one of the primary organizers of the Lisle Township and Warrenville ballot questions. "Really, this shows that this is a nonpartisan issue."

Alesch, of Warrenville, said he is encouraged by the level of support because, if Congress decides to take up the issue, it would need a supermajority to pass the amendment. The same is true for voters to ratify the amendment in each state.

Supporters say the next step is to lobby Illinois lawmakers for an advisory resolution urging Congress to take up the issue, said Kaye Gamble, who heads Move to Amend Kane County.

Gamble and other supporters said it was important to start the movement at the local level and work up to show how much support there is to limit the influence of so-called super political action committees — even if Tuesday night's results show the additional campaign spending by outside fundraisers didn't carry as much influence as many assumed.

Super PACs and other groups spent more than $1 billion on the 2012 election, mostly on behalf of Republican candidates, including GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Karl Rove, adviser and strategist to President George W. Bush, spent millions to co-found PACs that stumped for Romney.

Hyde said the threat still remains.

"We're all certainly satisfied with the results that the billions of dollars spent didn't change the final outcome of president and many Senate and House outcomes, but they still had undue influence on the results," he said. "That is a threat to the basic system of government."

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