, Salem, MA

Local News

October 5, 2012

Limiting political spending on ballot

Constitutional amendments are not easy to pass, but that’s not stopping proponents of an amendment to limit political spending by corporations. Their effort is starting at the grass roots this fall with a question appearing on some Massachusetts ballots.

Locally, it will appear on ballots in Salem, Beverly, Hamilton, Ipswich, Marblehead, Swampscott, Topsfield and Wenham.

It has inspired passion on both sides of the issue with its intent to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which eliminated restrictions on political spending by corporations and unions.

On the one hand are people like grandmother Maureen Driscoll, who worries that rich businesses are using their wealth to warp the political process. She sees Citizens United as a ruling that shortcircuits common-sense electoral reform.

On the other hand are people like Salem State professor Kani Sathasivam, chairman of the political science department, who believes the proposal is an assault on the cherished right of free speech. He believes the court simply sustained the time-honored right to participate in democracy.

Driscoll hopes that passing the question will prod politicians in Washington to get the amendment process started. A Beverly resident, she helped get it on her hometown ballot, as well as in Ipswich, Swampscott and Marblehead. At age 70, she is a retired computer programmer who worked for a corporation, General Electric, and has nothing bad to say about the company.

“We are not anti-corporation,” she said. She just wants them to know their place. “Their money is stacked against the individual. The significance of a (corporation’s) million-dollar contribution is much more than my $10 or $20.”

Sathasivam’s specialty is foreign relations, but he takes a keen interest in civil rights. An immigrant from Sri Lanka, he left his homeland 25 years ago at the beginning of a ruinous civil war. He has no interest in ever going back.

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