BRUNSWICK


A wary Town Council waded into national politics Monday, adding Brunswick’s voice to a growing movement calling for a constitutional amendment to limit the influence of  money in politics.


Councilors voted 6-3 to accept a petition asking them to approve a municipal resolution backing a constitutional amednment that would reverse the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United. 


The petition was initiated by a citizens’ group called Brunswick United and signed by more than 500 residents.


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Citizens United vs. the Federal Elections Commission that corporations held the same First Amendment rights as private citizens, which essentially allowed for unlimited spending in support of the candidate of the corporation’s choice. 


As a result, the amount of money contributed by “big business” to political campaigns during the subsequent midterm and general elections more than tripled. Critics claimed a conservative-leaning Supreme Court made it easier for wealthy donors to sway election results.


All nine claimed philosophical support of limited campaign spending, but some stressed the council’s purview is limited to local governance.


David Watson, Gerald Favreau and Chairwoman Suzan Wilson voted against the measure.


“This is a nationwide campaign, this is political in nature, and by our council rules we are not supposed to get political,” Favreau said. “We are an apolitical body.”


Councilors John Richardson and Sarah Brayman, who sponsored the municipal resolution, relied on advice from legendary Massachusetts Democrat and former Speaker of the House Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, who claimed that “all politics is local.”


“The court case turned the election process and the way money is controlled in elections on its head,” Richardson said. “More than $3 billion was spent during this last election cycle alone, in the presidential (campaign), and that’s an abnormal, obscene amount of money to be spent on a presidential election.


“This is probably the most undemocratic assault on democracy that I’ve seen in my lifetime,” he said. 


“This is an issue that will have a direct impact on us when outside money decides to buy Town Council and school board seats. It’s happening in other parts of the country, and it’ll happen here, eventually,” said councilor Ben Tucker.


“I think Citizens United was an outrageous decision by the Supreme Court … unfortunately there’s really no other way to change that without at least trying to amend the Constitution,” Tucker added.


More than 40 supporters of Brunswick United attended the meeting Monday. More than 20 other towns in Maine have passed similar resolutions — though Auburn rejected an identical measure Monday.


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