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Legal Scholar: Citizens United Petition Misguided

Bloomington City Hall

Photo: Daniel Robison/WFIU News

Bloomington's City Council adopted a resolution Wednesday similar to language pushed by approximately 200 other civic bodies.

Bloomington joined the ranks of more than 200 other local governments Wednesday night in officially supporting a constitutional amendment which would overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

In the case, the court held that independent expenditures for political advertising by corporations could not be limited by government regulations.  As a response, groups have been circulating an amendment which attempts to give power back to people by stating that corporations will have no rights under the constitution.

Indiana University Law Professor Daniel Conkle says as a legal matter the amendment is overly broad and misguide, adding taking a corporation’s rights would override existing Constitutional protections.

“If the government wants to put I-69 through a particular piece of real estate and if the real estate is owned by a corporation, the protections of taking property without just compensation, if you read this literally, simply would not apply,” he says.

But council member Andy Ruff, who sponsored the resolution, concedes supporting the language is more of a symbolic gesture than a serious attempt to amend the constitution.

“I share some of the concerns that people have that maybe a constitutional amendment is not the right way to go,” Ruff says.  “I think what’s more important is people getting educated, informed, involved and active to do something about this.”

More than 1,400 community members signed a petition in support of the resolution.  Other cities including New York City, Los Angeles and Portland have also drafted similar language.

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