Citizen anger with corporate control of our politics isn’t playing out only at Occupy Wall Street rallies. In Colorado, voters occupied their polling places and urged Congress to clarify that constitutional rights belong to people, not corporations.
They also voted to fire their private power company and set up a municipal utility—as sixteen communities across the country have over the past decade.
Voters in Boulder backed an anti–“corporate personhood” referendum by a 3-1 margin, putting the Colorado college town on record in favor of a constitutional amendment that declares that corporate campaign spending is not protected as a free-speech right.
Boulder’s rejection of the money-is-speech fantasy that was outlined in the US Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United ruling of January 2010 was the latest win for a national push by the group Move to Amend to get communities to signal their opposition to the idea that corporations should be allowed to buy election results. Coming at a time with the Occupy Wall Street movement is spreading to Colorado cities, Tuesday’s vote was celebrated by Boulder City Councilman Macon Cowles, who told hundreds of referendum supporters, “People are tired of corporations picking their pockets and stealing their retirement. It’s a way in which people express the dissatisfaction with the fact that the corporate agenda has become our political agenda.”
Boulder voters were not just sending messages about corporate power Tuesday, however. They were moving to replace it.
Boulder voters endorsed a move to create a municipal power authority to replace Xcel Energy Inc., the biggest electricity provider in Colorado. And on the same day, they voted to increase their taxes by roughly $15 a household per year to cover the cost of what is expected to be a lengthy battle to dump Xcel and replace it with a publicly owned utility.
Xcel won’t go easily. The company spent Xcel spent $950,000 on a campaign opposing the Boulder ballot measures. The company’s campaign overwhelmed that of supporters of the referendum, who spent only about $87,000. But the public power advocates still won .
“People like a David-and-Goliath story, and that’s absolutely what this is,” said Ken Regelson, who was active with the group, RenewablesYes.org, the community group that supported developing a public utility.