Seeking to send a message to Congress, Mount Kisco's Village Board of Trustees unanimously voted for a resolution that calls for amending the federal Constitution to overturn the Supreme Court's decision of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
The resolution, barrowed from language adopted by the Yonkers City Council, blasts the 2010 case, which overturned campaign finance restrictions on election spending by collective groups such as corporations. The statement blasts the Citizens United decision for removing those limits, arguing that it will give corporations undue influence over the electoral process and candidates.
“The issue for me is accountability," said Mayor Michael Cindrich. "When funds are given to candidates and there’s no accountability or no track record of where the money’s coming from or how it’s being used, is an issue that even if Congress does debate it they are the beneficiary of the money.”
As an example, Cindrich noted the ongoing campaign finance violation prosecution of former presidential candidate John Edwards.
He added: “And it’s something that we’ve just gone afar with corporations dictating on how this country is going to move forward.”
The resolution calls for a constitutional amendment that declares corporations are not given the same legal status as people and that corporate spending for influencing elections is not deemed to be a form of speech.
Passage of the resolution was preceded by a debate over how strong the language should be.
Trustee Anthony Markus favored a resolution similar to one approved by the Cortlandt Town Board, which merely urged Congress to consider proposing a constitutional amendment.
Fellow trustees argued that the other version did not go far enough and felt that members of Congress will not have an incentive to act because they have conflicts of interest due to accepting corporate donations.
“They have a vested interest in maintaining what the court did," said Trustee Joseph Morreale.
“It’s their bread and butter," said Trustee Jean Farber.
Ultimately, Markus went along with what was a 4-0 vote. It did not include Deputy Mayor George Griffin, who recently underwent surgery and had been spending time recovering.
Passage of the resolution is a victory for Mount Kisco resident Jane Pendergast, who is a member of liberal group MoveOn.org's regional chapter. She began the push earlier this spring for the board to pass a resolution. A similar effort by the chapter is being attempted in New Castle. The intent, Pendergast explained recently, is to get local support to push for a constitutional amendment.
The U.S. Constitution provides for two ways to enact an amendment. One involves approvals by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress, the House of Representatives and Senate, and of 38 out of 50 states. The other involves having a constitutional convention called for by at least two-thirds of state legislatures. The later method has never been used, according to the National Archives.
To read a copy of the Citizens United decsion, click here for one hosted by Cornell University's law school.