In a unanimous vote, the Borough Council agreed in supporting the overturning of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, a case dealing with corporate campaign contributions.
The case, which was decided in 2010, held that the federal government can’t restrict political spending by corporations in violation of the First Amendment.
The option to reverse the decision is currently under discussion by the U.S. Senate and could come to a vote within days.
The motion was written by Councilmen Peter Morris and Evan Myers, stating “the borough of State College finds and declares the large campaign contributions to political candidates of our wealthy contributors and special interest groups exercise a disproportionate level of influence over the political process.”
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Large contributions increase the potential for corruption, Myers read, and prevent qualified citizens from running for office. Without safeguards, there is potential harm for the citizens of State College, Pennsylvania and the United States.
The motion also expressed the borough’s opposition to the Citizens United ruling, calling on Congress to “propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to provide ... a person means only a natural person for First Amendment protection of free speech.”
“I understand we don’t have direct input to deliberations of Senate and Congress,” Councilwoman Theresa Lafer said, “but as a community, we have input to all elected officials. If they don’t hear from us, they don’t know what we’re thinking.”
Passing the motion will accomplish two things, Morris said: expressing outrage that in voting and campaigning a corporation is considered a human being, and stating a remedy by calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision.
“It’s going to be a hard fight,” he said.
Morris supported the motion by indicating the other cities and states that have also showed their support in overturning the decision, including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Lancaster.
While addressing a national topic may seem out of place for the borough, according to Myers, recommendations are often given by the Pennsylvania Municipal League and the National League of Cities on issues that rise to national attention.
“It’s not without precedent that we take these stands,” he said. “Elections do matter, and who is in office and how they get into office matters a lot.”
Authenticated copies of the resolution signed by Mayor Elizabeth Goreham and Council President Jim Rosenberger will be sent to the president and vice president, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, the speaker and minority leader of the House of Representatives and to each Pennsylvania member of Congress.