by nathan oster
Mart Hinckley and Carolyn Walton often find themselves on different sides of the debate when it comes to politics. Hinckley generally leans to the left, Walton to the right. But on one issue, the two Shell residents are in complete lockstep.
Both agree that campaign finance reform is needed in this country.
“The money that is in politics is insane,” said Hinckley, citing the “billions” of dollars that were spent in the last presidential election. “Everybody knows that it can’t be good for us … and it just keep getting worse”
Hinckley and Walton are trying to do something about it. They are among of a small group of local volunteers who are gathering signatures in support of Wyoming Promise, a campaign that is being led by, among others, former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson.
In a recent opinion piece, Simpson argued for the need of a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution “so that real persons — not money, corporations, unions or special interests — govern America.”
Wyoming Promise seeks the removal of “dark money” from the election process.
The 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United vs. FEC overturned a century of campaign finance reform, according to Wyoming Promise literature. “The decision for the first time gave corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts of money in direct support of political candidates, leading to an obscene influx of money from corporations and ultra-wealthy individuals,” it states.
Further, the ruling led to the creation of Super PACs, which aren’t required to reveal the identities of their largest donors, who contribute the “dark money” that Wyoming Promise seeks to eliminate.
In order to amend the Constitution, 34 states must demand that the U.S. Congress do it.
So far, 19 states have called for a 28th Amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision.
Simpson was quoted in the brochure as saying, “The Wyoming Constitution guarantees equal rights to ‘members of the human race.’ Corporations are not people and therefore should not have any right to spend an unlimited glut of money to influence our elections. We must get this dark money out of the system.”
Hinckley and Walton are among those who are circulating a petition seeking signatures to put “An Act to Promote Free and Fair Elections” on the ballot. They have until Feb. 1 to gather 811 signatures from Big Horn County residents who were registered to vote in the 2016 general election. That 811 figure represents 15 percent of the county’s 5,406 registered voters.
Will Dinneen, a public information officer with the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office, said 38,818 total signatures will be needed statewide and that they must come from 16 counties. Those figures represent 15 percent of the state’s total registered voters and two-thirds of the state’s counties, respectively.
Promoting it as “bipartisan” effort, Hinckley said he’s just trying to bring people together in support of what Wyoming Promise is trying to do. He is among a group of approximately 15 who are gathering signatures and making plans to have a presence at a number of community events in the coming months.
Supporters in north Big Horn County, in particular, are needed, he said, and urges anyone with an interest in helping the cause to contact him at (307) 213-1449. More information is also available on the Wyoming Promise website, WyomingPromise.org.
“Right now these corporations or Super PACs can give whatever they want, and in the case of Super PACs, they don’t need to show you who donated it,” said Hinckley.
Walton said she’s still reading up on Wyoming Promise and what it does.
“It makes sense to me, though,” she said. “The dollars that are thrown at these campaigns are unimaginable, and if these candidates are kowtowing to these donors, then yeah, it’s not a fair election. The little guy’s vote is pretty much being overridden by the people who support these candidates with such wealth.”