In 1978, the Supreme Court decision in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti struck down a Massachusetts state law barring corporations from spending money to influence ballot question votes. The decision set the stage for corporations to spend millions advocating for or against ballot questions across the country. The consequences of this decision and the big money political system it created are coming to bear once again in the fight over the proposed Wynn casino in Everett, where the well-financed group Everett United is waging an aggressive campaign to woo voters into supporting the casino development via ballot question on June 22nd.
Wynn Resorts is largely responsible for funding Everett United. Stephen Wynn, the company's chairman and CEO, and former Revere resident, is no stranger when it comes to using his wealth to influence the political process. His personal lobbyist, Charlie Spies, is the cofounder of the Restore our Future Super PAC, which spent in excess of $150 million during the 2012 presidential race, much of which was raised from casino and hotel entities such as Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Marriott International.
Those who are opposed to the construction but lack the financial means to counter Everett United are seeing what happens when corporate money wants to make its mark in political decision making. Not only does it create an uneven playing field to participate in debate, but it perpetuates a growing trend of voter cynicism and apathy. As one Everett resident against the development laments, "There is so much money behind it, and who am I?"
The referendum for approving the construction occurs in 15 days. Allowing for unlimited spending to influence an issue that will affect thousands of local residents undermines the purpose of having a ballot question in the first place, which is to give every voter equal say in this matter. Voicing an opinion should not become an exercise in futility because of the weight of your wallet.
Issues: Voting and Elections