Monroe residents concerned about corporate influence on elections

By Ben Holbrook | Jun 27, 2012

Monroe — Residents of Monroe voiced concerns about the Supreme Court ruling allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in support of political candidates.

A ruling by the Supreme Court was made in January 2010 in regard to the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission lawsuit. The lawsuit argues it is unconstitutional to prohibit corporations from exercising their First Amendment rights to political speech.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of granting corporations the same First Amendment rights as individuals.

Monroe resident Larry Dansinger and a group of volunteers gathered about 60 signatures for a petition to address the issue of money as speech, and whether corporations are people.

During the town meeting, article 55 asked residents “Shall the town vote to ask the Maine Legislature and Maine’s congressional delegation to support a U.S. Constitutional amendment that states that money is not speech and that corporations are not persons under the U.S. Constitution.”

Dansinger said the decision by the Supreme Court is important because corporations can funnel virtually unlimited funds to political candidates, but, as a result, people without much money can’t get as much access to politicians.

“There are differences between corporations and human beings and, in some respects, corporations have more rights than human beings,” Dansinger said. “If I made as much money as a corporation, I would have to pay a larger amount in taxes than corporations. I don’t think that’s a good thing for a democratic nation.”

Norma Whitman said she feels giving corporations the ability to have such a significant impact on elections diminishes the democratic process.

"Not only buying elections, but they can do so anonymously," Whitman said.

As a possible solution to maintaining the integrity of elections, Whitman suggested giving all the candidates equal time on television and radio.

A number of residents voiced their support for the article during the meeting, saying they were uncomfortable with the idea that large corporations could potentially influence who is elected to office. In addition, they also noted money from out of state could be funneled into Maine and influence state elections.

Some residents spoke in favor of the court ruling, while others questioned whether it was appropriate to discuss political matters during the meeting. Those who were in favor of the court ruling said it didn’t necessarily change the political atmosphere, since the individuals who comprise a corporation would still have the ability, and money, to influence elections.

Residents voted in favor of having the Monroe selectmen draft a letter to be sent to the Maine Legislature and congressional delegation.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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