“Corporations should not have the rights of human beings, and they should not be able to spend an unlimited amount of money in our elections,” said Ashley Sanders, head of Utah’s Move to Amend, a national group with affiliates across the country worried about the corrosive influence of money in politics.
The group gained steam after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down limits on corporate and union election spending ruling them the same as banning free speech. The result was the most expensive presidential race in history fueled by money from special interests.
And it's a trend seen here in Utah.
“People in this building behind us are basically doing the bidding of giant corporations locally because this place is saturated with corporate cash,” said Sanders.
Whether corporations should have the ability to fund campaigns will now be a question for Salt Lake City voters. With the city council's approval and through the City Recorder, Move to Amend is mailing all of the city's registered voters a ballot asking where they stand.
The ballots will be mailed to registered voter in Salt Lake beginning Sep. 9. Move to Amend plans to poll other Utah cities and eventually the entire state.
The results won't directly change policy, but will be used to help the group achieve their ultimate goal of abolishing corporate spending by amending the Constitution. That’s something those who study the amendment process say is unlikely to happen.
“We live in a system of government where it's very difficult to make changes to the Constitution and because the court relied on certain First Amendment arguments in Citizen’s United,” said Thad Hall, an associated professor of political science at the University of Utah. “You'd have to basically pass an amendment that created limitations on those First Amendment rights.”
That, and the approval of 2/3 of both the House and Senate and ¾ of the states to sign on.
“It's a fun issue to talk about, but the odds of it being repealed in our lifetimes are pretty small,” said Hall.
Small odds to a big uphill battle—just only beginning in Utah.