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Group pushes to limit corporate influence on elections

Roughly 30 members of Move to Amend gathered in Naperville City Council chambers Tuesday night to object to a Supreme Court ruling that lifted federal restrictions on what corporations can spend to influence elections. (Melissa Jenco/Tribune)

Roughly 30 members of Move to Amend gathered in Naperville City Council chambers Tuesday night to object to a Supreme Court ruling that lifted federal restrictions on what corporations can spend to influence elections. (Melissa Jenco/Tribune)

Area residents seeking to limit corporate spending on elections turned to the Naperville City Council for support Tuesday night, but got little backing on their push for a constitutional amendment.

Roughly 30 people with the Move to Amend group wearing white shirts and stickers that read “99%” turned out to show their objection to the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission that struck down federal limits on what corporations and special interest groups can spend to influence an election.

“This allowed unlimited amounts of money to be spent anonymously and secretly on our elected officials,” said Keith Klingeman of Naperville. “Money is not speech, corporations are not people.”

The group is calling for a constitutional amendment to regulate campaign contributions and spending and decree only people have constitutional rights. It asked that the Naperville City Council pass a resolution to show its support.

Steve Alesch, one of six people who spoke on behalf of the group, said unlimited spending by corporations and special interest groups allows them to “buy elections, run our government, drown out the voice of the voters.”

John Laesch of Aurora encourages the Naperville City Council to support a constitutional amendment to regulate campaign contributions and spending. (Melissa Jenco/Tribune)

“Constitutional rights should only be given to living human beings not corporations and other special interest groups which are artificial creatures of law,” said Alesch, who lives near Warrenville.

But councilmen expressed little interest in passing a resolution on the matter.

“While I basically agree with what you’re saying I just don’t see that going through local government is the way to do it,” Councilman Joe McElroy said.

McElroy also expressed concern about “taking a stand on what are basically partisan issues.”

But members of the group argued they need a grassroots effort starting at the local level in order to pass an amendment. They also said they aren’t targeting one particular party.

“The Democrats and Republicans are both bought and paid for by special interests,” said Aurora resident John Laesch, a member of Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice.

Councilman Bob Fieseler said he understands the group’s concerns about campaign finance, but takes issue with part of their proposal to strip corporations of all constitutional rights.

“I think that is reaching too far,” Fieseler said. “I think most of us would have trouble decreeing that even a corporation shouldn’t have the right to a jury trial.”

The discussion concluded without the City Council giving any indication it would be bringing a resolution forward to support the group’s cause.

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