Pittsfield Council Mulls Resolution Against Citizens United

By Joe DurwinPittsfield Correspondent
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Members of the City Council spoke favorably toward a petition from residents asking that they issue a resolution in support of a constitutional amendment overturning the controversial Supreme Court decision in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

The petition, signed by 188 Pittsfield residents, asks the council to pass a resolution "calling on the U.S. Congress to pass and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court decision in Citizen United v. Federal Election Commission and restoring constitutional rights and fair elections to the people."

"We hope that Pittsfield will join the 67 other cities and towns in Massachusetts that have passed similar resolutions to date," Pittsfield attorney Paul Schack told the City Council on Tuesday, speaking on behalf of the petitioners.

In Berkshire County, Great Barrington, Lanesborough, Lenox, Monterey, Otis, Richmond, Sheffield, Stockbridge and Williamstown have already passed similar resolutions against the Citizens United decision.

"By presenting this petition to the city council we are replicating what is taking place all over the country," said Frank Farkas, who worked with Schack on the petition. 

"Allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money threatens our democracy and the ability of real flesh and blood people to effectively exercise their rights to free speech," said Schack, "simply because such unlimited spending drowns out all other voices."

Schack also pointed to other ways the legal precedent of corporate personhood had been successfully used to invalidate various laws intended for consumer protection, from tobacco companies use of the 1st Amendment to circumnavigate ordinance-limiting cigarette advertising to a suit finding Monsanto need not adhere to a Vermont dairy labeling law.

Supporters of the petition believe that the Constitution, which has been amended 27 times throughout American history, once again be amended to rectify what they regard as a perilous situation created by the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling, but that such action is unlikely without sufficient public pressure.

Rather than vote based on the brief summaries offered by the petitioners during the open mic period before the council meeting, Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan Lothrop suggested that it be referred to its Ordinances & Rules subcommittee to allow for more thorough discussion to help the public understand and comment on such a resolution.

"I do think it's a controversial subject to a certain extent," said Lothrop. "Certainly I'm in favor of it, but I also think there's an important part to the discussion we would have at Ordinances & Rules,  where there'll be an opportunity to talk for more than three minutes at open mic."

Other councilors agreed with the need to have the public understand the case, and voiced general agreement with the petition.

"It is, I think, one of the worst decisions ever made in this country, and by the Court," said Ward 6 Councilor John Krol. "I'm 100 percent with the petitioners."

The resolution will be discussed further, and open to public input, at the Aug. 6 meeting of the council's Committee on Ordinances & Rules, before returning to the full council for a final vote on Aug. 14.

Tags: Citizens United,   city council,   constitution,   petition,   

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