This weekend, St. Petersburg City Council Member Karl Nurse, shared an op-ed with the Tampa Bay Times in support of our Defend Our Democracy Ordinance. The column, titled “St. Petersburg Should Limit Influence of Big Money in Elections” begins:

What’s behind many of our society’s worst problems? Why can’t many elderly Americans afford medicine? Why does our environment continue to be degraded? Why is inequality growing so rapidly that the top 1 percent of income earners take almost all new wealth created in our country? Why do college graduates get saddled with massive debt?

While most voters oppose these harmful trends, our elected officials are unable or unwilling to take legislative measures to turn these trends around.

The big problem is the power and influence of big money and special interests in our country’s political system. The infamous U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United opinion in 2010 (which essentially declared money is speech and corporations are people) opened the door to unlimited spending to distort and deform our democratic system. The fossil fuels industry successfully secures billions in completely unneeded tax breaks while renewable energy development is ignored or opposed. Big Pharma ensures that we pay between three and 100 times as much for medicines as countries like Canada. Big money, often from hidden sources, buys undue influence and control over our political system to the detriment of democracy and the welfare of Americans.

Of the proposed ordinance, Nurse writes:

Fortunately, the city of St. Petersburg has an opportunity to preserve its democratic system and to curb undue influence by moneyed special interests. Operating through the organizations Free Speech for People and American Promise, national constitutional and election lawyers have crafted a carefully worded ordinance for St. Petersburg that curbs the influence of big outside money in our local city elections.

If enacted, the Defend Our Democracy ordinance would ban super PACs from operating in city elections and limit contributions from “significantly foreign-owned” corporations to $5,000. Super PACs are distinguished from ordinary political action committees because they are allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, and they can keep the sources of their money hidden by “laundering” contributions through organizations that do not have to report where the money comes from. “Significantly foreign-owned” corporations are those with 5 percent or more ownership by foreign nationals, meaning primarily large national corporations, not local businesses.

This ordinance would massively curb the influence of hidden or unaccountable big money special interests in city elections, yet it has been carefully crafted to likely be held constitutional, even by our current U.S. Supreme Court. It would forever protect our democratic system in the city. The people, not big money, would decide the city’s policies. The residents of St. Petersburg overwhelmingly support it: Preliminary polling indicates support well in excess of 80 percent. The St. Petersburg City Council and mayor should enthusiastically support it.

To read the full article, click here.

A City Council meeting will take place at the St. Petersburg City Hall, this Thursday, September 7 at 1:30pm, with a rally scheduled for 1:00pm. This is the final of two meetings to decide whether the Defend our Democracy ordinance will be enacted.