Glastonbury Town Council discusses Supreme Court's Citzens United ruling
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Thu., Jul. 11, 2013
During a recent meeting, the Glastonbury Town Council engaged in a brief debate over the U.S. Supreme Court's Citzens United vs. Federal Election ruling.
In the U.S. constitutional law case, the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment does not allow the government to restrict political expenditures by corporations, associations or labor unions. The conservative lobbying group Citizens United wanted to air a film critical of Hillary Clinton and to advertise the film during television broadcasts, in apparent violation of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (commonly known as the McCain–Feingold Act or "BCRA"). In a 5–4 decision, the Court held that portions of BCRA violated the First Amendment.
Councilman Tim Coon opened the discussion at the council's meeting by presenting a draft of a resolution which would have stated that the council urges Connecticut's U.S. congressional delegation to pass an amendment that would reverse the Supreme Court ruling. Coon said the ruling “elevates the role of the wealthy over that of the ordinary citizen of the United States.”
Other council members had issues with what role the council should take in the national debate, and some with the content itself.
Councilwoman Lorraine Marchetti said she had no problems with what the proposal says, but isn't sure the council, as a unit, should jump into the discussion. “I don't feel that this is the body that really should be continuing this discussion,” Marchetti said. “It's a political issue that does impact both parties. I would like to see this move to both chairs of our town [Democratic and Republican] committees.”
Coon replied that if the issue was moved to the committee chairs, then the non-partisan issue becomes a partisan issue, and that if the elected representatives of the town were to express their input, it would carry more weight. “It should come from the council as a whole, because we represent the entire community,” he said. “I would have an issue if it comes from the parties and not from the council.”
Councilman Larry Byar said that since the issue references Supreme Court rulings and cases that the council has not had the chance to review, it would not be appropriate for the town council to make a statement. He added that since it is a federal matter, it's not within the purview of the council, and called it a “leap.”
Councilwoman Diane DeLuzio said she felt that the Supreme Court has ruled, and added that she happens to agree with its decision. She said she researched the issue on her own, and disagrees that the court's decision elevates the role of wealthy special interests in elections. “I believe that this is a way of sneaking in a political issue before the election,” DeLuzio said.
Councilman Kurt Cavanaugh said that if citizens are concerned about a federal issue, then they should contact their representatives on the federal level. “We don't do that,” he said. “We do roads, bridges, schools, sidewalks and zoning matters at this council.” Cavanaugh, a Republican, added that he also felt that Democrats on the federal and local level are the main proponents of the effort opposing the Supreme Court's decision.
Coon called the Republican's comments “not surprising,” and added that the Supreme Court's decision affects everyone and therefore everyone should be involved. “It would be silly to say that the Supreme Court has made a decision and that's final,” Coon said. “Our system of government is set up in a way that allows us to adjust decisions that the Supreme Court has made.”
Councilwoman Jill Barry, the only other Democrat in the meeting, supported Coon. “I do feel that this is a local issue, as it affects campaigns on all levels,” Barry said. “I do think it's appropriate for this council to make a decision.”
“We certainly have a broken campaign finance system,” said Council Chair Chip Beckett. “I think there are far too many people hiding behind tax-advantaged accounts. It's really bad for our country. I don't think a council resolution's going to do it, or that it's really our purview as a council.
Coon added that he took affront to the idea that this is a campaign issue, and things became slightly heated as Byar responded to Coon's notion that he didn't pay attention to information that he was given. But, eventually, Coon acquiesced to the fact that he clearly did not have the support of other council members to move forward, but thanked them for their comments, adding that “this issue will have legs in other venues.”