Abele Plans Veto of County Board's Citizens United Referendum

County Executive Chris Abele said the cost of adding the question to the ballot — at least $20,000 — is not worth an advisory referendum with no action behind it.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele plans to veto the county board's request for an advisory referendum regarding a well-known U.S. Supreme Court decision, citing the cost of adding it to the ballot.

The referendum refers to an oft-criticized 2010 Supreme Court case Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, in which the court ruled that the First Amendment protected political spending by corporations and unions in elections. On Thursday, the board voted 14-4 in favor of an advisory referendum that would ask Milwaukee County residents whether they support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would essentially override the Supreme Court decision.

Abele spokesman Brendan Conway said the county executive agrees with the board's position on Citizens United, but the issue is that it would cost between $20,000 and $25,000 to add the question to the ballot.

"He is as against the Citizens United ruling as anybody," Conway said. But he doesn't support spending taxpayer money on an advisory referendum that would have zero impact, Conway said.

Whether the board will override the veto remains to be seen. The measure passed on a 14-4 vote; it takes two-thirds of the board (12 votes) to override.

A group of county supervisors released a statement Friday encouraging Abele to sign the resolution. They said it mirrors a referendum approved by West Allis voters earlier this year, and comes after six states have called on Congress to advance a Constitutional amendment.

"Thursday's 14-4 vote on the County Board puts us on record against allowing anonymous, unlimited monies to be spent in state and local elections," according to a news release.

"We have to do what’s right to protect our rights, because if money is speech, then there is no free speech."

Bren July 28, 2012 at 12:00 AM
There's not much point in a referendum if it will have no impact.
Greg July 28, 2012 at 02:19 AM
Ya think?
Keith Schmitz July 28, 2012 at 02:27 AM
By itself it won't. It's the cumulative that counts to end this perversion of democracy.
Bren July 28, 2012 at 02:29 AM
The GOP filibustered anti CU legislation in 2010; Dick Durbin of Illinois has 1.9 million signatures supporting a Constitutional amendment to strike down CU. GOP members were absent from a recent hearing on the issue. CU was a disastrous decision for democracy.
Greg July 28, 2012 at 02:38 AM
"It's the cumulative that counts to end this perversion of democracy." and if the referendum ends up supporting CU, then what? You assume your view will win, how has that worked lately? I don't have a lot of confidence that the MilCo voters will understand the issues at hand.
jbw July 28, 2012 at 08:39 PM
I have a hard time understanding this issue. Are people saying that if an organization can pay to run commercials expressing a political opinion in favor or against either a policy or a candidate for office, then our nation will collapse because humans are incapable of resisting the will of paid commercial endorsements? It seems the root of the problem then is existence of advertising mediums and marketing in general, or the poor quality of our citizens. Or is there more of a slippery slope argument going on here where it becomes something more sinister than running ads on the TV and radio I haven't had for years, or sending me printed materials that go into the recycling bin before I ever see them, or posting online ads I block? I look at these political campaigns the same way I view delinquent teens - a pathetic nuisance best ignored.
Bren July 28, 2012 at 08:55 PM
jbw, Citizens United rolls back half a century of campaign finance reform. Name recognition is key to winning a modern election. With literally billions at their disposal, the wealthiest in our country can choose their preferred candidate and blanket every form of media to make sure their selectee gets the most attention. Santorum and Gingrich both had billionaire supporters. Both candidates probably remained in the GOP primaries far longer than they would have without having one individual pay for almost everything. So fundamentally the American dream of growing up to become President, already on the ropes because of the expense of modern campaigning, is pretty much down for the count with Citizens United. Instead of the "best and brightest" getting name recognition the old fashioned way of public service and reputation for excellence, we have individuals selected for their willingness to promote the special interests of their benefactors. Not good.
Bren July 28, 2012 at 08:58 PM
Greg, I agree. We've seen comments on Patch of people who don't understand how media saturation can sway the minds of people who don't typically pay much attention.
jbw July 28, 2012 at 09:20 PM
So, basically you're saying I had it right the first time. I find it hard to believe that I could get people to elect any arbitrary person I choose to any public office by buying media coverage, since I'm not using it as the basis for my own voting. I guess I'm just unique, so we're doomed. Out of the millions of children encouraged to dream of growing up to become President, how many could possibly ever achieve that dream in their lifetimes, given the length of each term of office? Maybe they should stop dreaming of how great they would have it as President and first try to find what they really like to do, and then pursue opportunities in public service if they find it suits them.
James R Hoffa July 29, 2012 at 10:39 PM
@Bren - So the answer is to kowtow the system to the low-informed, susceptible, and stupid?
Bob McBride July 29, 2012 at 11:52 PM
If the County Board has time to waste considering something this pointless, then its time to revisit the possibility of reducing the number of supervisors significantly.
Eugene Barufkin July 30, 2012 at 06:34 AM
Every resolution counts in the limited democracy we live in. <> How many politicans really listen to us?? Very few because most are purchased by the same people who love the concept of corporate personhood, ie love personal greedy favors. So - Why amend our Constitution to end corporate personhood? Many reasons - – #1 The corporate personhood lobby is the fundamental obstruction to all issues of our democracy. – Irresponsible savage misuse of free market capitalism. – Purchase of political support for oxymoronic, hypocritical, monopolistic control of financial, government and political institutions. AKA RAPE! – Promotion of obscene wage gaps and bad main street economic policy. – Support election limitations that will destroy community and democratic execution of government. – Buy influence to block free market competition of ideas, by blocking public-only financing of elections & fusion voting. – see #1 <->
Keith Schmitz July 30, 2012 at 10:41 AM
So then people should do nothing and let this perversion of democracy roll over us. Bet the British wished there were more of you around in 1773.
Bob McBride July 30, 2012 at 11:09 AM
Stop comparing every little lefty theatrical effort to the founding of the nation. You look foolish doing so. In addition to this being a waste of time, had it gone through it would be a waste of about $20-25,000 of taxpayer money. I realize that means nothing to you, personally, but for the County to toss money at this absolutely pointless effort at time when they're crying poverty would look about as foolish as your comparison above. At least Abele has the sense to realize that.
Keith Schmitz July 30, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Get up on the wrong side of the bed Bob. I am sure your friends in the GOP (and they are your friends despite your posturing as a towering intellectual cynic) can waste a lot more money than that (voter fraud investigations anyone). The sups are elected by the people, and this is just the expression the people would want. I know that I should feel ashamed because a towering intellectual cynic calls me foolish. But guess what Bob...
Bob McBride July 30, 2012 at 12:55 PM
I realize staying on topic isn't one of your strong points (particularly when you're confronted with conflicting interests on the left), but the focus of this article is pretty clear. It's not about the American Revolution, it's not about what Republicans do or don't do. It's about a frivolous referendum and the decision by Abele to veto the request for the same. I say good for him and I didn't even vote for the guy and don't particularly care for him. You, on the other hand, rather than holding a guy you voted for accountable for not supporting this silly effort that you support, toss up distraction after distraction in an attempt to take the focus off of one lefty vetoing the desires of another bunch of lefties. If you were smart you might actually be able to use something like that to your advantage rather than assuming your usual position as a third tier partisan hack.
Eugene Barufkin July 30, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Bob, Thank goodness for at least a limited democracy by the people. You're looking at it. The County Board voted 14 yea - 4 nay. That's much more than a one vote majority. - The only time the Bd spent on the referendum was the discussion and the time it took to vote. - The referendum was researched and written by citizens, not any members of the Bd. - The next step is a yea/nay vote by living citizens, not idolatry corporations... Therefore this is a GREAT use of Democracy. Bob, what is wrong with this???? Why can't you live with Democracy when the Left practices it?? When the Right practices Democracy to your liking, I bet you don't complain. And Bob, - Is it patriotic for Americans not to have healthcare???? <-> I bet you think Romney/Obamacare is wrong. I'm I correct? George Washington said - – “Never for a moment should it (government) be left to irresponsible action.” I'm thinking, which is dangerous, at this point many think Washington was a lefty. - I'm I correct??? -- "At the foundation of our civil liberties lies the principle that denies to government officials an exceptional position before the law and which subjects them to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen." -- Justice Brandeis - Burdeau v. McDowell, 1921 "There is no distinctly native American criminal class save Congress." -- Mark Twain -
CowDung July 30, 2012 at 01:43 PM
"Why can't you live with Democracy when the Left practices it?? " I thought that Abele was on the left side of the political spectrum, Eugene. Why can't you live with Democracy when the Left practices it??
Bob McBride July 30, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Eugene, Did you read the article? There's a cost associated with the referendum, were it to be put on the ballot. The referendum serves absolutely no practical purpose. It addresses a SCOTUS ruling. SCOTUS rulings are not the purview of the County Board. By vetoing the request, Abele wisely took into account the cost of referendum to taxpayers and its relative benefit to the same. He himself agrees with the spirit of the referendum but, as an elected official, is putting the responsibilities of the job ahead of his personal beliefs. That's good governance and I'm giving him credit for that. The same can't be said of the County Board. It's been suggested in the past that the size of the County Board could be reduced, saving taxpayers the cost associated with preserving its current size. The argument against that has been that we need to have a board this size to handle the complex issues facing the County. If they have time to spend considering a referendum that, again, is not part of their purview, it's time to revisit downsizing the board as it appears that the claim that doing so would hamper their ability to effectively deal with county-specific issues may be less than forthright. That's what this is about. If you don't like Citizen's United, then sign the Sherrod Brown thingie we see advertised here all the time. Don't waste taxpayer money pointlessly.
Eugene Barufkin July 30, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Yes Bob, Democracy costs money, and lives, just like all the wars we fought including the one George Washington directed. All media has a cost so you have the ability to express yourself publicly. Bob, even the computer you're using and your tv, so you have the ability to watch and comment about what's going on, cost money. Every election costs lots of money. Should we not have any elections because of this?? Bob, Do you have a formula that will make practicing Democracy FREE?
Bob McBride July 30, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Eugene, you apparently can't stay on topic either. The focus of this article is not all elections or the cost of Democracy or any of the other things you want to make it about. It's about a pointless referendum, the cost involved in having it placed on the ballot and the decision on the part of Chris Abele to veto the request of a group of folks who, apparently, have solved all the other problems we face in this county and now have too much time on their hands. Sometimes the practical outweighs the grandiose. This is one of those instances. If you want bust out your intellectual choad, there are better threads than this one in which to do so.
Eugene Barufkin July 30, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Bob, It's you who are not staying on topic. The topic is the purpose of this democratic project and the process. It's to make America more democratic and provide greater weight to everyone's vote. Corporations don't vote so why should they interfere with your vote. Do you really like that? Think for a moment - The wealthy get two votes and we get only one. Their corporation votes by purchasing elected officials and we don't have the money to do that. Then they go to a voting booth and vote again.
Bob McBride July 30, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Eugene, I honestly don't care. I don't, like you, assume my fellow countrymen are idiots who are swayed by attack ads. I know some of your ilk do believe that. That's fine. I'm not going to waste my time discussing something that I don't care about. Nor am I going to bemoan a practical decision to not spend money on something that's pointless. As I said, there are better threads than this one to discuss the more grandiose aspects of the Citizen United ruling and any of the myriad of other things you folks seem to equate with the corporatization of America, or whatever you want to call it. I'd suggest you look to the articles authored by Lyle Ruble (although he may be a bit too practical for your liking). A perfect fit for you would be anything by Nick Poulus. I'm sure he'd love nothing better than the wile away the hours with you fretting over Paul Ryan and plutocratic oligarchs and Ayn Rand and all sorts of other belly button lint that gets us nowhere. Have at it. I have no interest.
Keith Schmitz July 30, 2012 at 05:19 PM
To it might seem that I am off topic, but you don't seem to recognize the topic, that being protecting American democracy by going after this perversion. Did you ever occur to you that by supporting my position, I am going against Chris' stance on this issue? So what exactly do you want me to do Bob? Smack him in the mouth? For someone who is dictating who we should like or dislike, for a towering intellectual cynic like you, I have never read you criticizing a Republican once, ever. I thought cynics were supposed to be against everybody against everybody ala HL Mencken. Maybe we should call you a semi-cynic. And for those with unsubtle minds, our county executive is not a liberal, just because he is to the left his flaming hack right winger hack predecessor. Of course your mind set makes everyone a liberal. The other big difference is Chris will not have to worry about what matches with orange.
David Tatarowicz July 30, 2012 at 05:30 PM
I think Abele got it right. Waste of money. It does remind me however that in 2008 there was a county referendum that a majority of Milwaukee County voters approved --- which was for a 1% sales tax increase to be used for transportation, parks, etc .......... Walker ignored the will of the people and killed it. At least that referendum referred to something the county has authority over --- this one that Abele killed would mean less than nothing, no matter which way it went.
Bob McBride July 30, 2012 at 05:49 PM
That's not the topic, Keith. The topic is Abele vetoing a pointless referendum. If you could get your head out of the partisan fog you live in long enough to look at something for what it is, not what you think it is, you'd see that. As for me not criticizing Republicans here, again, just because you haven't seen it, doesn't mean it hasn't happened. Hovde, Sensenbrenner and Cain come to mind as ones I recall criticizing here. May have been others, maybe not. Abele is a liberal. Just because he isn't the hate-filled, fire-breathing variety you favor, doesn't make him any less of one. Not all liberals are as insanely preoccupied with partisan politics as you are. Not all conservatives are as common-sense-focused as I am. I understand balance, you don't. That's not cynicism, intellectual or otherwise. That's just a fact.
Michael Wallace July 31, 2012 at 01:42 PM
It is not just about whether or not the American people can distinguish between truthful and false ads. It is about Politicians reliance on a small group of corporations and individuals to get into office. If you paid for me to get a job, and in that job I would have influence over something that you wanted, more than likely I am going to help you get what you want. So lets say a bill comes up for vote, it isn't something popular in the media so most people don't hear about it but its probably something my constituents would be against, however it would really help your profit for me to vote yes on this bill, which was am I going to vote? Am I going to vote for what is in the best interests of my constituents? Or am I going to vote for the best interests of the you, the person who got me to where I am, and if I vote against you, I will lose my funding and without funding I cannot get elected so I lose my job. Now, does that show at all to you an appearance of corruption? The Government is no long voting for the people, they are voting for their funders. The ones who really put them there. We have one vote, but we don't get to choose who is going to be in the election, the ones with money do by backing a candidate early and getting name recognition.


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