Most Southern New Hampshire communities acting on a resolution last week at Town Meeting sent a strong message in favor of campaign finance reform.
The resolution they passed urges the Legislature to ask Congress for a constitutional amendment clarifying that constitutional rights were established for people, not corporations.
It was a response to the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Critics have said that opened the door for corporate and union special interests to spend freely to influence campaigns.
Washington-based Public Citizen, which is advocating for reform, said in the New Hampshire 2012 gubernatorial race that followed the ruling, outside groups spent $19 million. The group said that was five times what candidates spent.
Seven towns in Southern New Hampshire voted on the resolution.
Six of them — Atkinson, Danville, Hampstead, Kingston, Pelham and Windham — approved the resolution by overwhelming numbers.
Only Londonderry defeated the resolution, but only by a narrow margin.
“Given this clear indication of strong support by the people of New Hampshire, it is time for the state Legislature to follow their lead,” said Jonah Minkoff-Zern, senior organizer with Public Citizen’s “Democracy Is for People Campaign.”
Retired Navy captain Peter Coffin, a paraprofessional in the Sanborn Regional School District, campaigned for passage in Kingston.
“I’m glad this passed by a good margin. It sends a message,” Coffin said. “Maybe the people are paying attention.”
Coffin admits he has been concerned about too much spending by individuals and groups trying to influence the political process anonymously and through negative advertising.
“We need our national and state representatives to support campaign finance reform,” he said.
A constitutional amendment, while a difficult challenge, is needed to undo the court ruling, Coffin said.
Derry business woman Neelima Gogumalla led the fight in Windham.
“I was very surprised by the 900-vote majority in Windham,” said Gogumalla, who met with what she described as strong opposition from former state Rep. David Bates at the town deliberative session.