On Tuesday, May 1, 2012, the City Council of Flagstaff, Arizona passed a resolution condemning the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Citizens United vs the Federal Election Commission and called for a 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution to overturn the decision and allow states to regulate campaign contributions. The resolution states in clear terms that contrary to the Supreme Court’s ruling, corporations are not “persons” protected by the constitution and do not have “political speech rights” under the first amendment. Flagstaff is the first city in Arizona to weigh in on this issue.
The historic action by the Flagstaff City Council was driven by the group, Flagstaff for Democracy, a diverse coalition of groups and individuals who collected over 600 signatures on a petition that was presented to the Council.
Progressive Democrats of Northern Arizona (PDNA) was represented in this coalition by Sallie Kladnik and Cheryl Bader, Co-chairs of PDNA, and PDNA members Eva Putzova, Joe Bader and PDNA’s End Corporate Rule Issue Organizing Team Chair, Vic Smith. The signatures were collected over a period of several months, both online and at public events. Meetings were held with most members of the City Council during that period to inform them of the issue and to advocate that they take action.
The Flagstaff campaign is part of a nationwide effort by citizens’ groups to oppose and reverse the disastrous Citizens United ruling that now specifically allows for unlimited contributions to political campaigns. Many cities, counties, states and citizens groups have passed similar resolutions in an attempt to force the Congress and the states to pass a constitutional amendment allowing for public regulation of such expenditures.
Reaction to the Council’s historic decision was immediate:
“Flagstaff just joined about 180 municipalities, organizations and citizen initiatives that have already passed similar resolutions or ordinances in an attempt to reclaim our democratic process and limit corporate contribution for the purpose of influencing elections,” said Cheryl Bader, one of the community organizers behind Flagstaff for Democracy.
Rebecca Christ, an NAU student and activist who spoke eloquently to the council in support of the resolution, added:
“The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United decision unleashed the rise of Super PAC’S giving an unprecedented power to control our political system to those with the most financial resources at the expense of everybody else. We are grateful to the City Council for listening to our concerns and passing the resolution.”
Vice Mayor Celia Barotz, who voted with the majority to pass the resolution said:
“This is one of the most important issues to come before the city council and I think it is our deep responsibility to weigh in. If this resolution passes it will be one of the most memorable moments of my time on the city council.”
The resolution passed 4 to 1.