The Codcast: A question of money and speech

All the talk in Massachusetts about the referendums before voters next month focuses on Questions 1 and 3, with little acknowledgement that there’s a number missing in between.

However, unlike the other ballot questions which seek to create or maintain state laws, Question 2 would launch that most typical Bay State of creatures, a commission to talk about changing the US Constitution. But while the referendum is about process, the underlying motive is the hot button issue of campaign finance and, more specifically, overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates for corporate money to influence elections.

“The government’s no longer in our control; it’s in control of people with deep pockets,” said David Ropeik, the former reporter for WCVB-TV (Channel 5) who is now a member of the Yes on 2 campaign and who joined The Codcast to talk about the question.

If voters approve the question, the state would form a citizens commission to review both the Supreme Court ruling and the Constitution. They would then propose changes that would take away recognition of “corporate personhood,” which the court has historically recognized.

Ropeik admits the ballot question is a “small ask” and is an incremental step. But Bradley Smith, the former head of the Federal Elections Commission who also appeared on the Codcast, says it’s a slippery slope in changing the First David Ropeik Amendment and giving government control over whose voice can be heard.

“It’s not just about the corporation to speak, it’s about the right for voters to hear different views and to act on views they hear,” said Smith, a law professor and founder of the nonprofit Institute for Free Speech in Virginia.

Massachusetts would join three other states – Vermont, California, and Illinois – in officially launching the process to add one or more amendments to the Constitution. Legislatures in 16 other states, including Massachusetts, have passed nonbinding resolutions to amend the Constitution. Massachusetts state law, which was upheld last month by a Supreme Judicial Court decision, prohibits corporate donations to state political campaigns.

Ropeik, who is a consultant on risk perception, said Question 2 is not solely about taking away the right of corporations to be involved in the political process but leveling the playing field for both sides of the ideological divide.

“This would only limit it to a degree where everybody has equality of speech,” Ropeik insisted, citing deep-pocketed Democratic corporate donors whose contributions allow them access for progressive causes as well. “Unequal money gives unequal influence.”

Smith acknowledged more money gives some advocates a louder voice than others. But he says the constitution wasn’t designed to make everyone equal in anything except rights.

“Sure, people who have money have a bigger megaphone to get their message out,” said Smith, who pointed out his job allows him to travel the country and get paid to offer his opinion on issues. “Lots of people have lots of differences that enables them to do different things… We’re not all equal.”

JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

Jonathan Cohen makes the case that the Lottery is just Robin Hood in reverse. (CommonWealth)

The Sunday Globe reviews Beacon Hill lawmakers’ healthy appetite for travel junkets paid by others, with a spotlight on the undisputed passport king, state Sen. Marc Pacheco.

ICYMI (and the governor’s team very much hopes you did), the Baker administration fired James McGinn, the former head of the Massachusetts Environmental Police — and one-time driver to Gov. Charlie Baker — on Friday afternoon, accusing him of fixing tickets and installing a secret camera that spied on officers. (MassLive) Meanwhile, reacting to the ongoing scandal with the State Police, Baker said he could be open to a change in the state law that requires the head of the staties to be someone from within its ranks, a reform his challenger, Jay Gonzalez, has been calling for. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Low- and middle-income residents are getting priced out of Quincy’s housing boom as officials have issued permits for the construction of more than 2,500 apartments and condominiums since 2015 with few for affordable housing. Developers have paid $13.6 million to the city’s affordable housing fund, but most of that money has gone unspent. (Patriot Ledger) CommonWealth recently took a look at Quincy’s building boom.

A vote by the Fall River City Council to temporarily remove Mayor Jasiel Correia from office in the wake of his federal fraud indictment will be put on hold once more because one councilor will be absent from the meeting. But the council president says he’s prepared to take over if Correia resigns or is removed. (Herald News)

Boston is one of 20 cities to receive a grant — $2.5 million — from the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge initiative. (Boston Herald)

Gnawing problem: Rats are a growing presence in Boston’s suburbs. (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The Trump administration is considering rolling back recognition and protection of transgender people under federal law by holding that a person’s sex is biological and determined by one’s genitalia at birth. (New York Times)

Special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly eyeing President Trump confidant Roger Stone’s conflicting stories about his knowledge of Wikileaks release of hacked Democratic emails. (Washington Post)

A new Gallup poll shows a majority of Americans oppose a ban on assault rifles with the divide coming along party lines. (U.S. News & World Report)

ELECTIONS

Paul Hattis and John McDonough explain why they are voting no on Question 1. (CommonWealth) Paul Levy says more nurses don’t necessarily mean better care. (CommonWealth)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and challenger Geoff Diehl went at it in a debate last night Springfield, sounding familiar themes with Warren tagging him as a Trump toady and Diehl ripping her for having her eye more fixed on a 2020 run for president than serving state residents in the Senate. (Boston Herald)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Greg Donnelly of the Carroll Center for the Blind says the disabled are not making the gains they should be making in such a strong economy. (CommonWealth)

Evan Horowitz says the trade deficit is growing, not shrinking, under President Trump — and he is largely to blame. (Boston Globe)

Gail Deegan and Beth Boland say Massachusetts needs to step up its game to keep up with California, which now has a law requiring all public companies based there to have at least one woman on their board of directors by the end of the 2019. (Boston Globe)

Uber is looking to expand its tech footprint, proposing to launch a drone-carrying food delivery service by 2021. (Wall Street Journal)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Gov. Charlie Baker gets mostly good marks for his handling of the opioid crisis. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

Rep. Shawn Dooley says the MBTA is inviting an enemy state into our midst. (CommonWealth)

The MBTA makes 10 properties available for lease. (Daily Item)

The Sunday Boston Herald painted a picture of the dire state of the Boston taxi industry, which is being killed off by Uber and Lyft.

No one from the Berkshires made it on to a 19-member panel set up to recommend changes to the way regional transit authorities operate. (Berkshire Eagle)

The low-budget Irish airline Ryanair is coming under fire after a video went viral showing a white passenger yelling and berating an elderly disabled black woman with no repercussions from flight attendants other than to move the woman to another seat. (Washington Post)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Jonah Kurman-Faber of Climate XChange says don’t believe all the hype about RGGI, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. He says the availability of cheap natural gas has done more to reduce emissions. (CommonWealth)

A Herald editorial decries the “green-energy lobby” opposition to new natural gas pipelines in the region.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A 25-year-old man was shot multiple times and killed by Brockton police after he brandished a knife and threatened responding officers, according to the Plymouth district attorney. It was the second officer-involved shooting in the city in six months of a person carrying a knife. (The Enterprise)

A former member of the state Parole Board received a $200,000 out-of-court settlement in her wrongful termination suit alleging she was improperly forced to resign following outcry over the paroling of a convict who went on to kill a Woburn police officer. (Boston Herald)

MEDIA

Sacha Pfeiffer, part of the Spotlight team that won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing the clergy sex abuse scandal, is leaving the Boston Globe to join NPR as an investigative reporter and sometime host. (NPR)