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Council supports federal campaign finance rule changes

Councilors show support for PCC's low-income scholarship program


Less than a month after the City Council decided to continue a policy introducing ceremonial resolutions on topics unrelated to city business, councilors on Tuesday night passed a resolution related to corporation personhood and federal campaign finance.

After a lengthy discussion, with Councilor Ian King abstaining, four councilors approved a resolution supporting a constitutional amendment to allow legislators to establish campaign finance guidelines. The resolution calls into question the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision that equated corporations with personhood regarding speech and campaign finance contributions.

King, who’s been outspoken against using council time and resources to consider ceremonial resolutions such as this one, abstained from the vote, explaining he was uncomfortable with language in the resolution saying corporations don’t have constitutional rights.

“It’s one thing to say corporations are not people, not wanting to equate money with speech,” he said, adding that denying constitutional rights is “one point I find dangerous to the point of being reckless. That’s a dangerous statement to make in the United States, and goes far beyond campaign finance reform.”

Councilor Catherine Arnold, however, said approving a resolution drafted by Beaverton Citizens for Fairness doesn’t bind it to every word or phrase. Regardless of how many cities endorse it, it would be up to Congress to draft a proposed constitutional amendment.

“In my mind, we’re not drafting what’s going to happen,” she said. “The resolution only says that if the majority of us vote for it, we think something needs to be done. At least we’re saying something. At the end of the day, we’re not going to create this legislation.”

Councilor Marc San Soucie, whose introduction of the resolution in late 2012 prompted discussions about the council’s role in such matters, argued that states’ ability to regulate campaign finance is relevant to the city, regardless of “thorny” issues related to citizen and corporation rights.

“The relevance, to me, is quite strong,” he said, suggesting an amendment to the resolution to focus on campaign finance regulations. “I think what (the resolution) says is that the city and the council favor a constitutional amendment that gives legislatures authority to decide campaign finance (regulations) the Supreme Court puts into question.”

Former Councilor Cathy Stanton was one of at least five people — including members identified with Move On and Beaverton Citizens for Fairness — who spoke in favor of the resolution during the visitor comments period of Tuesday night’s meeting.

“This would add Beaverton’s voice to a growing choir of jurisdictions and entities across the country,” she said. “This is about campaign finance integrity. I believe we need to protect ourselves. Please allow Beaverton to have a voice in the choir.”

Noting the resolution would limit campaign finance activities on behalf of unions and state and federal political party organizations, Greg Cody, an active volunteer with the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District, said the resolution was “too broad” in excluding “all entities.”

Passage of the resolution, which the council had tabled since its introduction last summer, comes in the wake of its decision on March 5 to not “filter” resolution requests — regardless of immediate relevance to city business — from citizens to councilors.

San Soucie, who later in the month asked the council — in what he called a “courtesy gesture” — to reintroduce the campaign finance resolution matter, admitted the difficulty in cities’ voices making a real difference in what he called a “fractious” atmosphere in the U.S. Congress.

“At this point, I’m not so naive to think, given the current climate in Washington, that getting a constitutional amendment passed is highly probable,” he noted.

In other business, the council offered conditional support to “Future Connect,” a Portland Community College scholarship program designed to assist lower-income college students. The college asked the city to contribute $100,000 toward assisting 50 area students.

Several councilors stipulated their support would be contingent on city funding going specifically to Beaverton residents.

“I wholeheartedly support the effort,” said Councilor Betty Bode, noting the importance of money going to city residents. “We’ll do everything we can.”




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