California Legislature Urges Constitutional Amendment to Reverse Citizens United

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  • Dale Eisman

State Joins Hawaii, New Mexico, Vermont and Rhode Island in Urging New Controls on Corporate Political Spending

The California State Senate on Thursday approved a resolution that calls on Congress to support a constitutional amendment that would reverse the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and again permit sensible controls on corporate and labor money in politics. The vote puts the country’s most populous state on the record in opposition to Citizens United. Legislatures in Hawaii, Vermont, Rhode Island and New Mexico already have adopted similar resolutions.

“This unjust ruling cannot stand,” said Derek Cressman, who leads Amend 2012, Common Cause’s campaign to reverse Citizens United. “Californians are disgusted by the huge sums of shadowy money that has been unleashed in the nation’s elections. If money is speech, then speech is no longer free.”

More than 20 California cities, including Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Nevada City, and Chico, have passed similar resolutions. The city council of Richmond has placed a measure on this November’s ballot giving voters the opportunity to directly instruct their congressional delegation to reverse the Citizens United ruling. Common Cause is working with other cities in California to do the same thing as part of its Amend2012 campaign.

The Citizens United ruling has been widely criticized for using the logic that corporations deserve the same constitutional rights as real people and that spending unlimited sums of money to influence elections is the equivalent of the free speech rights to speak one’s mind without fear of government repercussions. Comedian Stephen Colbert had lampooned the so-called SuperPACs that sprang from Citizens Untied and other court actions. Wealthy individuals such as Las Vegas casino operator Sheldon Adelson, industrialists Charles and David Koch, and businessman Foster Friess used SuperPACs to significantly impact this year’s Republican presidential primaries. The Los Angeles Times reports that George Soros will be giving $2 million to two Democratic leaning SuperPACs aimed at promoting voter turnout in the November election. Republican political strategist Karl Rove has created a SuperPAC, American Crossroads, and an allied non-profit that shields its donors from disclosure; the Rove groups are expected to spend more than $200 million on the November elections.

Supporters of today’s action included Common Cause, CALPIRG, Public Citizen, California Church Impact, the League of Conservation Voters, and other groups. The organizations turned in more than 50,000 petition signatures gathered from within California to support the measure.