A rural Decorah man has asked the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors to take a stand on campaign finance reform.
Carl Homstad met with the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors last week to request the Board pass a resolution to support a constitutional amendment to end Citizens United, or a resolution to reform campaign finance.
“The U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2010 known as Citizens United, which said that corporations are, like individuals, entitled to free speech and that money is speech, has been a disaster for our democracy,” Homstad said.
“It has led to a concentration of political power in extremely wealthy entities. This has led to a reluctance by our elected officials to fight for things like the end of dark money and enforcement of campaign regulations, including the ban on foreign donations. Large corporations have written the regulations that govern their industries. Members of Congress cannot be counted on to change the system that puts and keeps them in office,” Homstad continued.
“You may be wondering what this has to do with Winneshiek County. We all see the disfunction in the federal government in the way drugs are priced, infrastructure is not built or repaired among many other things. The oligarchs and big corporations have now come to the state government to get their way with judges, regulations and other policies. Counties, cities and school boards are next, if the influence has not started already.”
Homstad told the supervisors the majority of the people in their districts want “big money out of politics” and that any resolution the Board approved on campaign finance reform would make a difference.
“We want to know who supports the candidates and where they are from. We want a say on what happens in our county. We don’t want outside interests taking our resources and leaving behind a huge mess because they gave big money to influence local, state and federal elections.”
Homstad noted rare minerals have been identified in Northeast Iowa. He said there’s nothing to prevent a mining company from investing money in local races for supervisor to help elect candidates friendly to mining.
“If you lose your say in government, something you don’t want could easily be forced down your throat,” Homstad said.

Felt influence
Supervisor John Beard said the Board has felt the influence of special interest money from the state level. He said a new law allows heavily loaded logging trucks to travel on county roads, something the county engineer is “very concerned” about.
“That’s one example. We know plenty of others. Special interests are running over the rights of everybody else,” Beard said.
“The county’s power has eroded steadily. That’s the way things seem to be headed,” said Supervisor Dean Thompson. But he questioned the effectiveness of passing a resolution.
Beard said it is noticed when counties, and groups of counties adopt resolutions.
“It doesn’t mean it can’t work. You shouldn’t be stopped from doing the right thing,” Homstad said.
He said if enough people stand up, the government has to listen to the people at some point. Homstad said 20 state legislatures have passed some kind of support of a constitutional amendment to change Citizens United.
“If enough individual groups and governmental bodies stand up, that creates the momentum,” Homstad said.
“This proposal is not anti-capitalism or anti-corporation. In fact, it is just the opposite,” Homstad said. “If powerful economic interests can influence the government to grant them an advantage, that is not a free market. If huge corporations can influence politicians to make policies that stifle competition, that is not capitalism,” he said.
“This is not about right and left. It is about right and wrong,” Homstad said.

‘Admirable’
Board Chair John Logsdon said Homstad’s ambitions are “admirable.”
“We’ve been fighting lobbyist groups for a long time at the state level,” Logsdon commented.
Homstad told the supervisors they have taken a leadership role in the past on issues such as the need for local control for the siting of large animal confinements.
Supervisor Mark Kuhn said the issue should be addressed at the next meeting of county officials from the six-county area.
Barbara Massman of Decorah asked the supervisors when they might consider a resolution. Logsdon said it would be considered in a “reasonable amount of time.”
“There’s kind of a train wreck about to happen if it continues the way it has – if it gets too far along,” Homstad said.