Evanston aldermen, dipping their toes into a national political debate, have voted to endorse a constitutional amendment that would overturn the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case.

The court in Citizens United effectively removed all limits on corporate and special interest campaign contributions — saying they violate the First Amendment’s free speech guarantees.

The aldermen, in the resolution approved unanimously by the Rules Committee Monday, argue that free speech rights should belong only to “natural persons” and that speech by artificial legal entities like corporations should be subject to state and federal restrictions.

Last November seven Democratic U.S. senators, including Dick Durbin of Illinois, introduced such a constitutional amendment.

Last month it was endorsed by 11 state attorneys general — all Democrats.

But the amendment idea has failed to pick up bi-partisan support, and with the arduous process required to amend the constitution, it appears unlikely to make much headway quickly.

At the same meeting, the aldermen rejected proposals to change their the rules for citizen comment during City Council meetings.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Another reason I don’t live

    Another reason I don't live in Evanston any more.  Stifle free speech???  This group should get their act together, quickly!!

    1. Another reason…

      And I'm so happy to be moving from Evanston in August. Wy would the Alderidiots even consider this except that it's a leftist Democrat response. These Dems will run Evanston into the ground!!!

        1. Bye Bye

          So should this apply to the NAACP, PETA, unions or the like?  

          "free speech rights should belong only to "natural persons" and that speech by artificial legal entities"

          Or only to the "big bad corporations"?  

  2. Corporate donations to political campaigns?

    The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision doesn't sound much like Free Speech to me, sounds more like wrangling the Constitution to achieve a goal.

    Good move Evanston Aldermen – thank you for taking a stand regardless of how popular it may be.


  3. Poor corporations

    Yes — poor, poor corperations – "help help, I'm being oppressed" by not being able to by elections and legislation which makes me profitable

  4. Resolution re Citizens v. FEC

    While I am not personally happy with the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, albeit for reasons having nothing to do with  the law, the recently approved Resolution, in my view, goes beyond what I have long considered to be the legitimate authority of the Evanston City Council.  I am generally content to allow my alderman to speak for me on a broad range  of community issues; she does not speak for me however on matters that are wholly political…As I  said some years ago, when the Council passed a resolution  condemning  the so called Patriot Act….  the Council should stick to streets and san and stay out of politics.

    Stuart Opdycke 1327 Hinman

  5. Alderman are Right on this one

    I actually agree with the Aldermen here.  I believe that the rights guaranteed under our constitution should apply to human beings only and not to artificial persons such as corporations, labor unions and other entities.   I don't think the founding fathers of this country intended to put artificial persons on equal footing as human beings.  I don't think it is even possible– after all, you can't throw a corporation in jail if it commits a crime!!!

    1. I agree

      that there should be limits placed on all groups; corporations, unions, PACs, and people.

      You can throw the officers of corporations, unions, PACs in jail, just like people that cheat the process.

      The problem with the city council is that they don't speak for the people of Evanstion. They should get about doing their job they were elected to do even if we might be better off if they would only meet once every two months.


      1. Another solution

        I'm not happy with the Court decision but then it does defend free speech.

        While the following does not get rid of big money [remember Obama was not going to take it before he took it in 2008 and ended that argument once and for all] but this might reduce the influence peddlling:

        They can give what they want but the contribution would be blind—going through a neutrral third party to whom ever they wanted the money to go to—-e.g. 'The Neutral Committee' gets the money, checks for legality, etc. and passes it on to lest say 'Committee to Re-elect the President.'

        The donor and the 'Neutral Commiitte' can never state who the money came from or who it goes to and the receipients [here the 'Committee to Re-elect the President], staffers, the President [in this case] and all possible parties never can know who [personal or corp. or union] came from.

        If the donor ever states he gave the money, the money will be returned to him.

        If the donor, either Committee or anyone else states the idenity of the donor, they can be punished by criminal and civil law.

        Yes the money still gets to the cause but the receipient does not know who [personal, corp. or union] gave it, they can not say [or imply, even 'wink and nod'] so and so that 'party' will not be able to claim they deserve help, a favor, an office, a perk, a job, a contract, etc., etc..

        Maybe it will help in decreasing influence in Evanston, Chicago, Illinois and Washington.


        1. Contributions = Free Speech?

          I've never fully understood why making a political contribution equates to  free speech.  To me, free speech is writing, calling or otherwise voicing your opinion to your representative or perhaps paying for a political ad or radio spot in regards to an issue to try to sway public opinion


          Political contributions, on the other hand, to me are basically a form of sanctioned bribery.  Donors are essentially paying their representatives to vote according to their bidding.  Whichever group or organization writes the biggest check gets the legislation they want.  That doesn't sound like free speech to me.  It sounds like a criminal undertaking.


          I know the supreme court has many times concluded that contributions are protected free speech, but I have a hard time believing that's what was intended in our constitution.



  6. Do your job

    Our mayor and council should stick to doing their jobs which is doing the business of Evanston. By voting on their personal political believes in the name of Evanston, they have corrupted the city of Evanston. The council should either apologize to the people for exceeding their authority or resign their office and walk away with heads bowed and tails between their legs.

  7. Lucky to get out before bankruptcy of city

    Lucky you can escape the republic of Evanston, the socialist city on the shore I look forward to the day I can afford to dump my home and say adios comrades.

  8. Citizens United

    As a member of Move to Amend, Common Cause, Democrac in Action Chicago, Free Sppech for People, Public Citizen and more, it's beyond me why any American citizen would want to accept the idea that corporations are people.  They're not.  They're entities with charters, eternal lifespans, they don't breathe eat or reproduce.  They should be accountable only to their shareholders and not be allowed to exert power in determining who gets elected.  They are not political entities.  An amendment to overturn CU is not the only way to go, but the way to go is make people aware that super PACs which is the pandora's box opened by the activist Supreme Court, allows big money to buy elections.  Why would any American want that.  Don't you want your vote to count?  I hear the argument on the Right about less government and no taxes.  However, if you connect the dots, what you have are corporations and super-rich forming a corporatocracy.  This is not freedom or democracy–this is a path to slavery.  Let's draw the picture.  These corporations are people when it's convenient, but they're not people in the decision by the Supreme Court a few weeks back that only people working for corporations can be held accountable for human rights abuses, not the corporation they work for.  Where's the corporate-controlled media on this.  Where's the corporation-controlled media on talking about strip-searching individuals for trumped up reasons.  Where are the corporate-owned regulatory agencies on protecting you and me from poisons in our water, food, air, products.  For example, while the corporate-ownedand  often non-profit health industry pays outlandish salaries to its executive, and while they pay little or not taxes, the quality of your health care goes down and the cost skyrockets, removing millions from affordable healthcare.  Do you want corporations to have the same speech or voice on this and determine that you're not worth covering?  Should'n't they be chartered organizations that are accountable only to their shareholders with limits on how much power they have in affecting legislation on their behalf, able to lobby but not able to pay off our congresspeople to get their bills and laws passed.  Do you want all our tax money going for a military budget that consists of overruns and waste,  money that could be used to improve education and other social programs, not privatizing our Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid programs, our cultural centers, our police and fire departments, so that all we become is a third-world country.  Do you want the oil and gas industry and auto industry to keep us dependent on them, while we could be driving energy-efficient cars, such as hybrids?  When you let an activist right-wing court make a decision like CU, which then foster super-PAC, giving them the right to buy our elections, this is what you get–no power to have a voice.  This is not what our Constitution and our democracy intended.

    And what happened to free speech.  When the Tea Party was in town, under the name of free speech, they came to Jan Schakowsky's town hall meeting and screamed and yelled and insulted her while the media was outside interviewing the hate groups.  When progressives want their voices heard, to peacefully protest, we are squelched, moved miles away from those we disagree with, and we take it.  I think we shouldn't.  As far as I know, this country still belongs to all its citizens.


    1. YFOS

      First, I agree with you that Corporations are not people and they should not be able to contribute unlimited money to campaigns. But the same holds true for unions, PACs, and people. There should be some sort of cap placed on campaign contributions and campaign spending for all.

      On most of the other things, you are full of it.

      1) If your talking about Jan Schakowsky's town hall on healthcare, I was there. I was in line 9 hours before the doors opened. I was about the 50th person to get in and only about 100 people got in. We fouind that Jan's gestapo army, the AFSCME union, had been allowed to come in the back door and fill most of the seat. They arranged themselves so that anybody who got in the right way could not sit together. When someone who wasn't in their group tried to ask a question they would shout them down and wave union or Jan signs in their face. Jan, well she only answered questions that were pre-arranged.

      2) Obamacare has been re-addressed by the GBO and is now estimated to cost more than a trillion dollars more than Pelosi said it would cost. They did what Pelosi failed to do and read the plan. Now that they know what's in it, they don't approve it.

      3) Although I hope some day it becomes true. Electric cars, windmills, and solar panels are not cost effective yet. they cost a lot more to build and maintain than the power they generate. The current generation of technology will need to be replaced or improved to be effective. The government should be spending money on green research and stop supporting the private for profit companies with billions of dollars.

      4) Obama's massive spending proved to be as successful of that of FDR's spending programs that most economists believe extended to great depression by 3 – 4 years. Let's hope that Obama's plan doesn't do the same amount of damage.

      None of this changes the fact that the Mayor and city council oversteped their authority by claiming to speak for the people of Evanston on their own political opinion.

  9. Will Evanston aldermen decline union campaign donations?

    Not only is it clear our aldermen are Democrats but the interesting aspect of this vote is there is no mention from them whether they believe unions are people.

    I say this because now unions just like corporations are no longer limited in campaign contributions. This has significance because our local unions overwhelmingly support the local Democratic party and have given and supported the campaigns of several current aldermen and our mayor. I would be willing to bet that the majority of campaign donations in our local elections are from unions and not corporations

    I am sure in next year's election our altruistic aldermen and mayor won't accept campaign donations from unions. Right?

    I happen to support the Supreme Court's ruling. Because I believe this ruling brings more competition into the political arena and threatens longterm incumbents who still benefit from the new ruling. Many safe incumbents such as Democrat Jan Schakowsky feel they can make controversial decisions like supporting Obamacare and have enough in their treasury to stunt any opposition. But as we saw with the rise of the Tea Party, many small PACS were able to form and target various politicians that ignored their constituents. Indiana's Republican Richard Lugar is the most recent casualty.

    But all is not lost for incumbents or Democrats under this SC ruling. In the 2010 elections, Democrats who were the majority of the incumbents collected nearly $65 million more from corporate PACs than Republicans. Democrat Harry Reid received $5 million in corporate PAC money compared to his Tea Party challenger's $259,000.

    Back to local politics. Will aldermen and the mayor decline union money, especially in light of the fact that they vote on union pay raises and benefits?

    Let's get some candidates not beholden to the powerful Democratic party to challenge the status quo. Maybe some corporate PACS might be in the cards.

    Political competion is good and much needed in Evanston.


    1. Find a way to take ALL money out of the equation…

      That, to me, is what we need to strive for.  The fact is that whoever has the biggest campaign "war chest" wins (9 times out of ten).  This is not the way to select our leaders.

      Also, to imply that politicians are beholden to their campaign donors is preposterous–most contributions are very modest.  Do you seriously think that a politician will allow their legislative votes swayed by a $50 donation? 

      Now, when those contributions climb into the megabuck range, it must seem (at least in the name of good manners alone) that the donors have "earned" lobbying rights to their "paid for" politician.  This is why limits had been placed on campaign contributions.

      Our politicians should be keeping their eye on the big picture, and have the courage to make hard, unpopular decisions.  This is also why I think we need term limits–if your main concern as a politician is to STAY elected, then you have ceased being a public servant.

      Equal time and access for all candidates, and an emphasis on debate and platform (not smear campaigns or attack ads) would elevate our political system.  I believe this is the main reason our voter turnout is so abyssmal–no one cares, because one candidate seems exactly like the other side of the coin to another. 

      Gridlock, short-sightedness, and lack of civil discourse.  No wonder we can't get anything accomplished.

    2. Aldermen and donations

      If they [the aldermen] really believe in their position, they would take NO money from companies, developers [I bet that is $$$], unions, special interest groups, or individuals, and only run on their own merits.

      Whats the chance of that ???

  10. Super pacs are good?

    IMO, all this angst over super pacs is overwrought and possibly incorrect.  The current republican primary, until recently, has been a long and contentious one with leaders seemingly rising and falling with each primary.

    I believe that was enabled because of various super pac funding to various candidates. That meant the super pac funding left more candidates viable for a longer period of time allowing more debate between them all.  And while that may seem tiring, it really is a good thing, assuming the American public pays attention. 

    Having one candidate become ordained and  coronated so quickly isn't necessarily in democracies best interest and therefore it's possible the super pac is actually serving a great purpose by simply allowing more candidates to enter a race and sustain that race for a longer period of time. That scenario will apply to either party and might even provide truly viable funding to a third party candidate one day, which would be of benefit to everyone.

    As far as corporate influence, dream on common cause, free speech for people, whatever is the group dujour.  Pass any law you want, it will change nothing, simple fact.    Business, or actually, bussinesspeople, will always influence politicians on every level of govt., and has done so since this country's inception.  In fact, the argument has been made that business interest is exactly what and why this country was formed. 


    1. What you say may be true but

      the real point is that the city council exceeded thier authority by assuming they can speak for the people on a purely political matter.

      They need to do their jobs. They are not a body of dictators.

      1. Non-issue

        I agree, and the above is why they shouldn't bother wasting time on such a non issue.  Also to point, on one hand council goes on about corporate shouldn't have a voice, but on the other hand there has been a slate of development going on with incentives attached. 

        Not that the incentives are necessarily bad, I support almost all of the proposals as being very positive for Evanston taxpayers. But really that is nothing more than working with the corporate voice, which apparently corporations shouldn't have. 

        It does seem at odds to the rhetoric and exemplifies why passing those type of anti-coroporate speech laws are so meaningless anyway. Business is business and politics are always involved no matter what, yesterday, today and forever, simple fact of life on the planet earth. 

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