Shorewood sends Citizens United question to referendum
Groups claim ruling allows unlimited spending that influences elections
Shorewood — Voters will have a chance to weigh in on the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial Citizens United ruling in spring 2014.
The Village Board on Monday voted unanimously to send a resolution to referendum that calls for a reversal of the court's decision. If approved by voters, Shorewood will join a growing group of municipalities, counties and states nationwide which has gone on record against the Supreme Court's ruling.
After a 60-day petition drive, local progressive group Grassroots Northshore and state progressive group United Wisconsin in late August turned in a 1,173 signature petition that outlined a referendum calling for a reversal of the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling. The two groups claimed the ruling "granted corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections."
Village Attorney Ray Pollen said the Village Board had the choices of approving the petition language themselves and putting the resolution on the books themselves, sending the resolution to voters via a binding referendum, rejecting the content of the petition on the grounds that it's not a proper subject for referendum, or similarly reject the content but send the matter to an advisory referendum. Faced with similar options, the Whitefish Bay Village Board in September sent an identical Citizens United resolution to referendum, though trustees questioned the cost and efficacy of the exercise.
Though there was some debate among residents in the audience about the politics surrounding the Citizens United ruling, the position of a nonpartisan village board is not to take a stance on national policy, Village President Guy Johnson said in an interview Tuesday, but rather to conduct the business of the village, which includes facilitating referendums when called for by residents.
"We kind of had to tell them, 'this isn't what we're here for,'" Johnson said.
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