City of Delafield - While city residents have been contemplating which presidential candidates to vote for Nov. 8, they will also have to contemplate whether to adopt a binding referendum seeking a change to the U.S. Constitution.
In July, the common council approved a measure asking residents whether a U.S. constitutional amendment should be approved that regulates campaign contributions.
The proposed change suggests that "only human beings -- not corporations, unions, nonprofit organizations or similar associations -- are entitled to constitutional rights." It also reads, "money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech."
If approved, the common council will be required to instruct state and federal representatives to "enact resolutions and legislation to advance this effort" as part of a state law that lets citizens adopt ordinances and resolutions through referendum vote.
Wisconsin law allows for petition signatures to be collected for adopting propositions or ordinances, or in the case of Delafield, place them on the ballot in binding referendums. Gerald Flakas and Barbara Begale used this law to their advantage in leading a citizens group in collecting 667 valid signatures to place the measure on the ballot, enough to meet state requirements for a direct legislation proposition.
Even if the referendum is approved, it still must be enacted by state and federal representatives, which is what Common Council President Tim Aicher and Alderman Chris Smith argued during July's arguments in opposition to putting the measure on the ballot.
"It really doesn't do a whole lot for us until they do something about it," Delafield City Clerk Sara Bruckman said. "All we're doing is basically passing a resolution stating that we would agree if they choose to. They (Aicher and Smith) were saying 'if you really want to petition on a federal issue like this, you need to petition them separately instead of saying the city supports it.'"
Aicher said he didn't have a problem with the citizens group advocating on the issue, but disagreed with the methods they used to do so.
"Changing the Constitution is a rather extreme measure for something that can be handled with legislation in my opinion," Aicher said.
"The more we can keep national politics out of the local arena, the better everyone gets along," Aicher added later in a phone interview.
Begale disagrees with Aicher and Smith. She said that by putting pressure on local municipalities, that will in turn push state and federal representatives to act.
"Hopefully it will push them because if we can't get the city of Delafield to listen to us, how the heck are you or I going to influence a federal government?" Begale said.
Begale said these efforts are necessary because of the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision that lifted regulations on organizations donating to political campaigns. She said the amount of "dark" money (money that is given to nonprofit organizations that can receive unlimited donations from corporations, individuals and unions and spend that money to influence elections without disclosing their donors) increased to more than $300 million after the decision.
"We have to hold our representatives accountable to us," Begale said. "That's important. They have to be accountable to the people and what's best for the person. Otherwise, the country is going to go down the tubes."
Delafield joins 78 other Wisconsin municipalities that either adopted the measure as a resolution or put a referendum on a ballot for a vote. The first was Madison in April 2011, and the most recent was the town of Marion, northwest of Green Bay, in September.
Delafield joins 19 other Wisconsin municipalities that have put a referendum on this issue for a vote Nov. 8. These municipalities are part of a national movement that want to see a constitutional amendment to allow state and federal legislatures to adopt laws regulating campaign donations.
Three-fourths of state legislatures would have to approve the amendment. Currently, 17 states, the most recent being New York, have called for the amendment.