County supervisors call for Constitutional amendment

BY BEN MARKS | MAY 08, 2015 5:00 AM

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The Johnson County Board of Supervisors issued a resolution of support for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution on Thursday.

In the resolution, the supervisors asked for limits and regulations to be placed on campaign contributions, as well as making such donations public information. They also asked that entities such as corporations not be given the constitutional rights of “natural-born citizens,” in effect saying corporations are not people.

In February, Del Holland, a member of Move to Amend, a grass-roots campaign dedicated to campaign-finance reform, presented the proposed resolution to the supervisors and asked for their support.

“[Move to Amend] doesn’t follow conventional partisan lines,” he said. “The reality is there are conservatives and liberals supporting this thing, recognizing our government has been corrupted, and we the citizens don’t have control anymore.”

Like the rest of the supervisors, Supervisor Rod Sullivan voted in favor of the resolution but said he recognizes amending the Constitution is a difficult task.

“An amendment to the Constitution is a huge thing, a very difficult thing to achieve,” he said. “It requires a lot of effort, but you have to start somewhere, and while adopting this resolution doesn’t fix this on a federal level, if everybody takes a little step, you start to see there’s the will to do it.”

While this is only a local vote in support of an amendment, the supervisors and Move to Amend hope to bring attention to a similar resolution that has reached the national stage.

House Joint Resolution 48 was introduced in the House on April 28, and among other things, calls for increased campaign regulations, ones that would reverse several recent Supreme Court decisions, including Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

A resolution, S.J. Res. 19, was brought up in the Senate in September 2014; it would have allowed the process to move forward for a constitutional amendment on major campaign-reform regulations. That resolution failed to reach the 60-vote threshold required in the Senate.

In 2010, in the Citizens United decision, the court ruled the government may no longer restrict political spending by corporations.

In the 2014 elections, 31,976 people accounted for $1.18 billion in disclosed political contributions at the federal level, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan, independent nonprofit.

“Politics and our government should be about people, and leadership, and ideas — not about who can raise the most money,” Supervisor Mike Carberry said.

HJR48 also seeks to remove corporations’ constitutional protections, which might help reverse the 2014 Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision where the court ruled that for-profit companies can have religious beliefs and are exempt from laws its owners religiously object to.

In Iowa, Lee and Black Hawk Counties have passed such resolutions, as have several cities, including Des Moines.

Supervisor Janelle Rettig said she usually doesn’t support constitutional amendments except in extreme cases, and she struggled with the discussion about the resolution.

However, she said, recent events such as the Hobby Lobby ruling caused her to reflect more carefully and support such action.

“I believe money and politics corrupts, and I don’t care whether it’s corporate money or individual money,” she said. “There’s too much money in politics, and people tend to vote the way their donors ask them to vote, and that happens not only at a federal level but a state and local level, too.”

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