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Politics & Government

Referendum about Money in Politics may be on Milwaukee Ballot in November, 2014

The Milwaukee Common Council unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday, calling for an advisory referendum on limiting money in politics.

The referendum would urge Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution, adding two provisions. One would declare that corporations are not persons and do not have constitutional rights. The other would state that money is not speech, so laws can limit political contributions and identify donors.

According to the measure the council approved, the item would appear on next November's ballot in the City of Milwaukee- if the state and county do not advance the item. In April, the referendum will appear on ballots in several other communities including in Shorewood, Wauwatosa and the City of Waukesha.

An advisory referendum does not force government to act but lets elected leaders know how voters feel about issues.

The group pushing the referendum here is called Move to Amend of South East Wisconsin. Its stated concern is over the influence of money on democracy, since the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision. According to the ruling, the First Amendment affords free speech rights to groups of individuals, such as corporations and labor unions, and therefore the government cannot restrict how much money they spend advocating the election or defeat of a candidate. 

Dozens of other communities and states have considered the resolution.