Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A new campaign finance resource

ESPC offers analyses of Citizens United v. FEC

Senate ponders resolution to require constitutional instruction

With the legislature nearly certain to pass legislation to bring state statutes into compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision allowing corporations to finance independent expenditure campaigns, future Wyoming election campaigns could look and sound much different.
In the case Citizens United v. FEC, the court cleared the way for corporations to engage in independent spending to support or oppose candidates in elections at all levels – from the town council to the U.S. Presidency.

The ESPC laid out its criticism of the court’s decision earlier this month in a debate with the Wyoming Liberty Group at the University of Wyoming College of Law. Preparation for that debate prompted a decision to put together a page on the ESPC web site to present the majority and dissenting opinions of the High Court and offer other analyses from independent sources. It includes a link to a humorous but on-point assessment from comedian Stephen Colbert.

You can access the page under the Projects tab and clicking on Campaign Finance. Or you can click here to go directly to the page.

We hope this page will inform Wyoming citizens about the potential impact on elections of the Supreme Court decision and the need to press for broader disclosure of the corporations or other interests behind any independent expenditure campaign. We’re also taking suggestions for links to other helpful resources.

Be It Resolved
Thursday will be a lively day for considering resolutions if the committees get to all their scheduled bills.

The Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee will consider a resolution and a bill calling for a constitutional amendment requiring that any elected official or other person required by law to take an oath to uphold the U.S. or state constitutions receive no less than three hours of constitutional instruction. Both are sponsored by Sen. Kit Jennings (R-SD28, Casper) and Rep. Bob Brechtel (R-HD38, Casper).

The instruction “shall teach the fundamental principals (sic) of the United States and Wyoming constitutions without interpretation and consistent with the plain meaning of the constitutional language drafted by the founding fathers.”

The idea begs a few questions, not the least of which is how the instruction should handle the amendments passed since the founders left this mortal plane and whether the instructions should include full explication of the U.S. Constitution’s handling of slavery and slaves.

Meanwhile, in the House Judiciary Committee, HJ 3 - Resolution to Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court tackles the mandates flowing from Washington that the sponsors believe violate the 10th Amendment. The resolution calls for an amendment to the 10th Amendment and an amendment specifically limiting the use of the Commerce Clause (Article 1 Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution) to extend federal authority into the states.

Prohibiting gay marriage
Unfortunately, what may be the most serious of these constitutional amendment proposals is SF 5 – Defense of marriage – constitutional amendment. It will be considered on third reading in the Senate Thursday (Jan. 27). This bill would enshrine in the state constitution the idea that gays, lesbians, and transgendered people are second-class citizens who don’t deserve even the option of a civil union. The ESPC believes the idea is unconstitutional because it violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection clause … but what do we know?

We expect a close vote. It is possible the Senate could muster 11 “nay” votes, thus blocking the two-thirds majority required to place a constitutional amendment on the Wyoming election ballot in 2012. Social justice advocates have been working hard to find those 11 senators.