Let’s send strong message about money in politics

The New Hampshire Senate missed an opportunity last week when SB 307 fell victim to a “failed” committee of conference. The bill would have created a legislative study committee to direct our U.S. Congress to take a strong stand and call for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United to get corporate money out of politics. The bill is dead, no compromise, reached.

New Hampshire residents have made it abundantly clear that they want to free elections from corporate influence and special interest groups. Earlier this year, 52 New Hampshire communities overwhelmingly passed warrant articles at town meetings calling for the state Legislature to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

The adage that “corporations are people,” thus have the same freedom of speech protections each of us enjoys flies in the face of New Hampshire common sense. This ruling gave corporations and unions the green light to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections, drowning out the voices of everyday New Hampshire citizens.

In our last election, an unknown number of out-of-state special-interest organizations spent millions of dollars in political communications to support or defeat candidates. Our laws do not require these so-called “independent” or special-interest organizations to register or report anything — not where the money comes from or where it goes. Thus, outside money flows into our state anonymously.

One of our founding principles is that the people have a voice, a say in our government. Unfortunately the peoples’ voice becomes silenced unless we take a strong collective stand against undue influence in our electoral process.

This is not a partisan issue. Polls have shown that the call to overturn Citizens United is popular among a wide swath of New Hampshire residents, no matter their political party. According to a University of New Hampshire Granite State Poll, 72 percent of New Hampshire residents oppose the Citizens United ruling and New Hampshire residents across party lines polled are in favor of a constitutional amendment by a 3 to 1 margin.

Outside money spent on TV, radio and mail pieces has affected our federal races. Now, we see the trend creeping in to threaten New Hampshire’s citizen Legislature. The last thing New Hampshire needs is our Legislature at the whim of special interests, rather than the people. As we go forward, it is vitally important that we all speak out — and hopefully our next Legislature will prevail in moving changes in election disclosure and spending.

State Senator Peggy Gilmour of Hollis represents the towns of Brookline, Greenville, Hollis, Mason, New Ipswich, Rindge, and Wards 1, 2, and 5 in the City of Nashua.

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