The Kenai Peninsula Borough building, pictured Sept. 12, 2018, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai Peninsula Borough building, pictured Sept. 12, 2018, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Assembly takes on political speech

The assembly passed a resolution supporting and calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly joined more than 800 other municipalities and local governments in supporting an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that addresses how corporations spend money on elections.

At its Jan. 21 meeting, the assembly passed a resolution supporting and calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would address recent judicial decisions, including the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Those recent court decisions have held that corporations and other artificial entities are “persons” under the United States Constitution with a constitutional right to “spend as much money as they wish on political speech, thereby greatly expanding the power of corporations and other artificial entities to influence elections and otherwise undermine the power of the People to govern themselves,” the resolution said.

“When freedom of speech is equated with freedom to spend money, the free speech of the majority of the People may be overwhelmed by the messages of the few who are able to spend millions of dollars to influence the political process,” the resolution said.

Brought to the assembly by members Tyson Cox and Brent Johnson, the resolution passed six to two, with assembly members Norm Blakeley and Jesse Bjorkman opposing.

The resolution specifically calls on an amendment that would include language that the U.S. Constitution “does not create, grant or protect any constitutional rights of corporations or other artificial entities,” and that the federal government “has the right to enact statutes and regulations governing the expenditure of money to influence elections and political decision making, to the end that all voices and opinions of the People can be expressed and heard.”

Several people from the public weighed in on the resolution. Resident Kathleen Rolf said she supports the resolution and hopes to “end unlimited money in our politics.”

“The U.S. Constitution says that corporations are persons with constitutional rights, but corporations should not be persons with unlimited ability to spend money in politics,” Rolf said. “Money should not be protected free speech. Corporations are only interested in their bottom line agenda.”

Mary Jackson of the Kalifornsky area spoke in opposition to the resolution.

“In my opinion this is far outside the reach of local government and an unnecessary expenditure of time and resources for what is an extremely unlikely result,” Jackson said at the meeting.

Twenty state governments and more than 800 other municipalities and local governments have passed similar resolutions calling for an amendment to the Constitution addressing these issues. In Alaska, similar resolutions have passed in the city of Homer, the city and borough of Sitka and the Anchorage Assembly.

Copies of the resolutions were sent to Kenai Peninsula Borough lawmakers in Juneau, Alaska’s congressional delegation and to each city within the borough.

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