Midtown Raleigh News

Raleigh weighs resolution opposing Citizens United decision

Following the lead of communities around the nation, the City Council on Tuesday will consider a resolution opposing the Citizens United ruling, a Supreme Court decision blamed for allowing unlimited corporate money in politics.

Councilman Thomas Crowder drew up the document after an advocacy group approached the city with the idea.

The resolution calls on the city to support a constitutional amendment “directed at regulating certain political speech by corporations and labor unions.”

“The Supreme Court erred in their ruling,” Crowder said. “I think this is detrimental to the electoral process. This is not a partisan issue.”

If the resolution passes, Raleigh would join the municipal governments of Durham, Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Asheville – as well as 140 others around the United States.

This is not a wise use of the city’s time, said Councilman Bonner Gaylord, who has previously opposed resolutions on hot-button national topics. Councilman John Odom said he also would vote no.

“While I agree there are some valid points, I don’t plan on supporting it,” Gaylord said. “I didn’t join the City Council to debate marriage, abortion, foreign relations or other issues council has no control over.”

About 25 supporters from the Raleigh Action Collective called for the measure at a recent hearing. The group is affiliated with the Occupy Raleigh movement.

“We are asking the Raleigh City Council to defend democracy by calling for a stop to unlimited and anonymous political campaign donations,” spokeswoman Stacie Borrello said.

In its 5-4 ruling two years ago, the court declared that restrictions on independent expenditures violated the First Amendment’s free-speech protections.

The ruling meant corporations and unions could spend unlimited amounts on ads designed to help or hurt a candidate; the ruling, however, did not change the rules governing contributions made directly to candidates.

Groups such as American Crossroads have been pumping big bucks into Republican efforts, while Democrats have formed their own groups with names such as Priorities USA.

In North Carolina, Democrats in the state legislature are pushing a resolution opposing the Citizens United decision, part of a national effort to work toward a constitutional amendment to void the court’s ruling.

But Republican lawmakers so far have shown no interest.

Crowder says the resolution would be posted on the city’s website and also sent to President Barack Obama and the N.C. congressional delegation.

Asked why the city should take a stance, Crowder said, “We represent our citizens. Yes, we may not have an impact when it comes to the final decision. But we weigh in on all types of issues.”

This isn’t the first time Raleigh leaders have waded into campaign finance. The City Council passed a resolution in 2010 in favor of allowing local governments, if they choose, to enact a public financing option for local political candidates.

More recently, the council formally opposed a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages in North Carolina. The amendment was later passed.

McClatchy Newspapers contributed to this report.

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