CLEVELAND - Momentum is building in the Buckeye State to stop the influence of Big Money in elections.Voters in the Cleveland-area communities of Mentor and Chagrin Falls passed resolutions on Tuesday calling on Congress to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution declaring corporate entities are not "persons," and that money is not equal to "free speech."
Chagrin Falls resident Becky Thomas, who organized the ballot initiative in her community, says she's happy to join other communities across the country who want to get money out of politics.
"I'm just hoping that because 600-and-some communities have adopted this, maybe we can eventually get public funding of elections, or more transparency," says Thomas. "We really want to reverse Citizens United. That's what our main goal is."
The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in 2010 made it possible for corporations to be considered "people," and the money they spend on campaign donations an extension of their freedom of speech rights under the First Amendment.
Other northeastern Ohio communities which passed similar ballot initiatives include Brecksville, Newburgh Heights, Defiance and Cleveland Heights. City councils in Oberlin, Fremont, Barberton, Lakewood, South Euclid, as well as Athens, in southeast Ohio, passed similar resolutions.
Dave Lima, organizer with Mentor Move to Amend, says people are becoming more aware of the influence of money on legislators who have to spend much of their time fundraising in order to protect their jobs. He says 90 percent of the candidates who have the most money win elections.
"Money plays a very, very important part in the political process," says Lima. "Of course, we think that it plays too much of a part because your voice is muted by the voice of Big Money."
Mentor's ballot initiative passed by 70 percent, and Chagrin Falls by 66 percent.
Greg Coleridge, coordinator with Ohio Move to Amend, says the ballot successes send a powerful message to those who represent Ohio at the federal level that corporate rule needs to end.
"There are people not just in urban but suburban areas too who feel candidates may be saying one thing to voters to get elected, but once elected end up doing something else to appease their fundraisers and investors," says Coleridge.
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