Local response: Minnesotans deserve a vote on corporate money in state politics

February 17, 2016
Virg Boehland

The News Tribune’s Feb. 16 editorial resisted amending our Minnesota Constitution through a ballot process, as outlined in our Minnesota Constitution (Our View: “Don’t let politics alter Constitution”).

The editorial agreed that a problem exists with openness and transparency in Minnesota government but did not agree that the people should be allowed to vote to fix the problem. While the editorial may be correct that the House majority may be counted on to vote as a caucus on this effort to make Minnesota politics more open and transparent, this has gone on for far too long.

It is important for readers to understand why the people need to speak out on how our state government is being corrupted by billions of dollars of special-interest money now flowing into our state without any way of tracking who is spending that money and without any way of tracing who is receiving that money. What is this money being spent on? What legislation is being bought?

This dark money is difficult to trace because the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision gave multinational corporations the rights of citizenship without the responsibilities. The ruling gave multinational corporations the legal right to use their corporate money in the same way American citizens have the right to their free speech.

Apparently, amending the Constitution to try to repair the damage of Citizens United is the only recourse.

Since Minnesota statehood, 213 proposed constitutional amendments have been voted on by the electorate, and 120 of them have been adopted. This proposal is no scarier to our “sacred” Constitution than any other of the 213 amendments that citizens contemplated. When it comes to politics, Minnesotans deserve to know who is buying, who is selling, and what they are buying and selling.

Minnesota voters should be trusted to be able to analyze this situation. It seems the News Tribune feels it must protect Minnesota voters from themselves.

Yes, it is true the majority in the Minnesota House may again vote as a bloc to stop campaign finance reform legislation from passing, but that is not true of their constituents. A supermajority of constituents, even in their own party, do not agree with that position. In a 2010 Washington Post poll, 76 percent of Republicans, 86 percent of Democrats, 81 percent of independents, 73 percent of conservatives, 85 percent of moderates and 86 percent of liberals opposed the impact of Citizens United on campaign financing and on campaigns. More recent polls suggest very similar opposition; and, based on the presidential election, that opposition is growing on both sides of the political fence. This is amazing agreement at such a partisan time.

The amendment process was built into both our Minnesota state Constitution and our United States Constitution for a reason: to address this kind of debacle. Citizens United is a misnomer, an Orwellian term that better would be termed “Corporations United Against the Citizens.”

The people have a right to know how their government is working — or not working. And the News Tribune should encourage citizens to correct this grievance through the ballot process.

Virg Boehland of Duluth is an organizer for the Duluth Area Move To Amend (movetoamend.org/mn-duluth), a grass-roots affiliate of the Minnesota Move to Amend (movetoamend.org), which has more than 10,000 members working for constitutional amendments to reject the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling.

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