Winston-Salem City Council passes resolution against Citizens United

Councilman James Taylor greets resolution supporters.
Winston-Salem City Council voted 5-2 on Monday night to approve a resolution opposing the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision.

A compromise between Councilman James Taylor Jr., the resolution's sponsor, and Councilman Dan Besse, passed with little discussion following about three months of shuttling to and from committee and wrangling over language and intent. The changes were made to address reservations expressed by Besse and garner his vote for the majority.

"When you start to see federally, on the state level and even locally in other cities that money was being placed over the people, I think this resolution sent a clear signal to everyone in our city that we won't put money over people, that people matter," Taylor said.

In addition to Taylor and Besse, the resolution garnered support from council members Vivian Burke, Denise D. Adams and Derwin Montgomery. Robert Clark and Wanda Merschel voted against the measure. Councilwoman Molly Leight, who had earlier expressed support for the resolution, was absent from the meeting.

With approval of the resolution, Winston-Salem joins Greensboro, Durham, Raleigh, Asheville and Chapel Hill in opposing the controversial Supreme Court ruling, which allowed so-called "super PACs" to spend unlimited cash in media advertising buys to influence elections as long as the expenditures are not coordinated with any candidate. 

The Winston-Salem council's resolution expresses opposition to "the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitution in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission regarding constitutional rights for corporations."

The compromise resolution struck language calling on Congress to amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United, calling instead "for the reversal" of the decision without naming any specific mechanism. But the title of the resolution still includes a reference to a Constitutional amendment.

To appease Besse the resolution also removed language stating, erroneously, that the Citizens United decision "declared corporations to be persons."

The final obtained by Besse removed the language articulating the stance that "only human beings, not corporations, are endowed with constitutional rights protected by the First Amendment," and avers instead that "the rights of corporations and other artificial beings under the First Amendment may be restricted to a greater degree and in a different manner than those of natural persons."

Supporters celebrated approval of the resolution at Foothills Brewing after the council meeting. Kim Porter with Occupy Winston-Salem said the resolution would not have passed without help from several organizations, most notably Democracy North Carolina, whose personnel helped gather more than 1,300 signatures on a petition.

"James Taylor has worked very diligently with residents of the city and different groups involved in this process," Porter said. "Many people told us that a corporate town like Winston-Salem would never pass a resolution against Citizens United. I'm glad we proved them wrong." 

No comments: