NEWPORT CITY – The Newport City Council Monday turned down a request to endorse an item on Town Meeting Day that would say corporations are not people.
Vermont lawmakers and advocates plan to unveil a resolution for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would overrule a U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission. The decision, made two years ago, held that corporations have the same rights as individuals to make unlimited contributions to independent groups seeking to influence elections.
Newport City Resident Pam Ladds, who identified herself as part of the NEK99 percent, said Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced a constitutional amendment into the U.S. Senate and other states and some towns have introduced similar bills. The purpose, said Ladds, is that they want transparency and corporate money out of elections.
Ladds had hopes the council would have a similar article on the March 6 Town Meeting ballot. She told council members that she assumes no corporation has bought any of them off, but stated, “You never know.”
The council wasn't so fast to agree with the article request.
Alderman Richard Baraw, who called himself a liberal, said the policy of the council has been to not put political statements on the ballot. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done, he said.
"I don’t think it’s good policy for the City of Newport to do that through the city council,” Baraw said. “I think you really should go the petition route.”
However, Ladds doesn’t feel that’s feasible, because she would have to go door-to-door to get signatures, something she said is challenging this time of year.
City Manager John Ward Jr. said that an editorial in Monday’s Wall Street Journal talked about the Citizens United decision.
“It’s worthwhile reading,” said Ward, who said the editorial explains why corporations have a voice. “They aren’t like you and I, but they represent people like you and I.”
Ward is concerned any such article would take away free speech.
“The answer to freedom is not less free speech,” said Ward. “I can’t imagine anyone signing those petitions.”