Lincoln County Commissioners, after listening to statements of support last week and today during their weekly public meetings, all three voted to direct County Counsel Wayne Belmont to prepare an opinion poll ballot measure that asks whether the recent U.S. Supreme Court case “Citizens United vs Federal Elections Commission” should be overturned by whatever means available; by the high court taking it up again for reconsideration, striking it down by virtue of a Constitutional Amendment or by some other regulatory means.
The ballot issue will be more akin to a county-wide opinion poll that will hopefully prompt Lincoln County voters to educate themselves on the impacts of Citizens United which many contend has a grossly misleading title. Those opposed to the effects of “Citizens United” claim that a better title would be “Corporations United” since the case was funded almost exclusively with corporate money. The Supreme Court decision, on a bitterly divided 5-4 vote, declared that corporations are legal human beings with an added declaration that money is speech. The case now allows corporations, labor unions or privately funded political action committees, to spend as much money as they want on behalf of a particular political view and/or on elements of specific political races, whether national, regional or local. And the names of the donors paying the freight don’t have to be divulged, and they’re usually not revealed.
Former political science instructor Steven Myers told the commissioners that American history is full of examples of the pendulum swinging back and forth between the rich and the non-rich as each vies for political supremacy in their pursuit of determining tax codes, trade and labor laws, environmental issues and others. He said that the country is in such a struggle today in that the pendulum has swung far to the right and in favor of the rich, which many contend is precisely why the American economy has been stuck in “Park” for the past 4.5 years. Myers said the middle and lower classes are beginning to “push back” against the country’s wealthy elite with an attack on Citizens United, a ruling that opened the cash flood gates to drown elections with more propaganda than useful election information.
Siletz resident Tom Robinson emphasized that Citizens United may have been decided in Washington DC, but like all federal actions, it affects everyone down to the grass roots level. Robinson said “We represent the grass roots level where democracy is practiced at the local level. And you, the Board of Commissioners, are the fundamental grass roots form of government that we depend on.”
Local resident Emily DeHuff reminded the commission that “Advertising works. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t exist.” She said since Citizens United took effect, each corporation, which includes businesses, labor unions and political action committees, have suddenly gotten a “vote in the discussion market place. But their election campaign funds multiply their votes by every dollar they spend on campaigns.” She said “It drowns out my vote and the votes of others.”
Waldport resident Steve Farish likened Citzens United to an invading army. Farish said “If a foreign army came ashore and started taking over, we’d do something about it. Citizens United empowers an army of wealthy campaign contributors to take over our elections. And we need to do something about that too.”
Commissioners Doug Hunt and Terry Thompson, although leery of using a county commission-sponsored straw polls to prompt such specific debates on nationwide issue, in the end, relented and voted to put the matter on the November ballot. Thompson remarked, “All I’m doing is giving the voters of Lincoln County an opportunity to express their opinion on an issue. That’s all.” Bill Hall’s support was never in doubt through repeated comments about the seriousness of America’s roiling political climate.
The vote was 3-0 to place the issue on the ballot in November. The exact ballot language is being developed by County Counsel Wayne Belmont and will be back before the county commission for final action July 11th.