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The Question 2 debate: Some say to vote no

The controversy surrounding the Citizens United decision hinges on our cherished right to Freedom of Speech. In the decision, the court ruled to expand that freedom and apply it equally to all entities and organizations, rather than just the arbitrary list of winners and losers selected by elected officials in previous campaign finance laws. Individuals, employers, non-profit organizations, and unions are treated the same and are all given the same opportunity to exercise their freedom of speech under Citizens United.

This is a good thing. The First Amendment protection of our Freedom of Speech is one of the pillars of our democracy and should be preserved and expanded at every possible opportunity. The less government standing in the way of the exercise of that right, the stronger it is.

However, even if you disagree with the Citizens United decision, an amendment to the United States Constitution is a dangerous and misguided way to go about undoing it. Question Two does not limit itself to speech rights, and the proponents want to go further with their amendment. They want to eliminate rights away from “aggregations” or “artificial entities,” which are understood as non-profit organizations, employers, and unions.

Thus, a labor union could find its headquarters searched without a warrant or probable cause since, as an “artificial entity” under law, it would have no Constitutional rights against unreasonable searches. A small employer could be criminally fined for violating some government regulation, without a trial, since, as an “artificial entity,” it would have no Constitutional right to trial. The government could simply seize the assets of a corporation, leaving individual shareholders holding worthless shares of stock, because the corporation, as an “artificial entity,” would have no constitutional right against a government taking of its property. As these examples illustrate, we provide rights to “artificial entities” in order to protect the rights of the individuals who join, create, or own them.

We don’t think that the drafters of Question Two meant for these types of consequences to occur, but that merely shows how flawed the measure is. If you don’t understand the problem, you won’t get the solution right.

Question Two fails to address the alleged problem even as it threatens the rights of ordinary Massachusetts citizens. We urge you to vote No on Question Two.

Paul Diego Craney is the spokesman for Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance.

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