, Gloucester, MA

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October 16, 2012

City adds backing to political spending limits

Constitutional amendments aren’t easy to pass, but the difficulty isn’t stopping area residents from getting behind an amendment aimed at limiting corporate political spending.

The effort started this fall has included city council resolutions, including now in Gloucester and town meeting votes, including in Rockport, in support of the amendment, along with a nonbinding question that will appear on some of the Massachusetts ballots.

That question, and the resolutions, are all targeting an amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, a decision that lifted restrictions on political spending by corporations and unions by recognizing them as if they are individuals.

So far, 72 communities have passed resolutions asking for the U.S. Congress to pass and send the amendment to the states to be ratified, with Gloucester’s council unanimously backing one in a motion put forward by City Councilor Paul McGeary.

While the council’s support for an amendment may not have much of an effect, McGeary said it’s an important issue to get behind.

“It’s not that we as the Gloucester city councilors can do much to pass a constitutional amendment, but it’s an expression of sentiment,” McGeary said — sentiment for a cause he said is worth fighting for.

McGeary said Cape Ann has a sizable population of “good-government” types — people, he said, who believe that government can do good, but that citizens should make it behave well.

“The mixture of money and politics is poison and it does need to be fairly and tightly controlled,” McGeary said.

He said Andrew Innes, a West Gloucester resident and member of Common Cause, a nonprofit, non-partisan entity that advocates for accountable government, suggested the motion.

Rockport residents, meanwhile, passed a similar resolution at the end of their Fall Town Meeting in September. The resolution was brought forward by Michael O’Connor and Nancy Goodman. They said they hoped to have Rockport support the measure.

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