Wednesday 30 November 2022
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Syracuse Common Council Votes to Amend U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United Decision

By Staff


move to amend Vison LcoalSyracuse’s Common Council voted 9-1 June 22 to approve a resolution to amend the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. Councilor Kathleen Joy was the only Council member to vote “no” to the resolution.

The court’s Citizens United ruling stated the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting spending by nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporations, labor unions and other associations who may influence campaigns during elections. As a result, according to Move To Amend of Syracuse and Central New York, much of the organizations’ spending has now been deemed the equivalent of political free speech.

“Since Citizens United, spending in political campaigns has ballooned, much of it in the form of attack ads from anonymous sources,” said Michael Messina-Yauchzy, local Move To Amend co-chair, at a rally of 25 people held before the vote. “This is not what our founders intended as political discourse, and the voices of everyday citizens cannot be heard when drowned out by corporate speakers with giant megaphones made of money.”

According to Messina-Yauchzy, following the vote, Syracuse is now the 665th municipality nationwide to call for the amendment, as well as the 21st in New York state.

However, Joy, the one council member who voted in opposition to the resolution, said amending the constitution may not be the best way to change the ruling.

“Terrible legal decisions should be dismantled through legislation, or by further court action, not through a constitutional amendment,” she stated. “While I appreciate the effort, and the support for this constitutional amendment, I have to vote no.”

In addition, although Councilor-At-Large Helen Hudson said she supported the resolution, she said she did not completely disagree with Joy.

“I voted to support the resolution because I think there’s a different way we need to do things,” Hudson stated. “A real person may not want to run for election because they don’t think they have a big enough bank roll. But, let’s be frank. I don’t think a vote by Syracuse’s Common Council is going to change the U.S. Constitution.”

Additionally, Councilor Jean Kessner also voted also yes, but stated, “If you want to change this, the best course would be legislatively, to keep working at it until you bring fairness back.”

The Council’s final approved resolution stated, “This Common Council of the City of Syracuse supports an amendment to the United States Constitution to establish that (1) artificial legal entities are not entitled to the same rights and protections as natural persons under the Constitution; and (2) spending money to influence elections is not free speech as defined under the First Amendment, assuring the power of the federal, state and local governments to limit, regulate, and require disclosure of sources of all money spent to influence elections.”

In the end, the amendment must be proposed by a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress, then ratified by three-quarters of the state legislatures.