A measure authored by state Senators Ben Allen (D–Santa Monica) and Mark Leno (D–San Francisco) that urges California’s Congressional representatives to work to overturn the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling will appear on the November 2016 ballot.
Gov. Jerry Brown last week announced that SB 254 became law without his signature, clearing the way for the Citizens United issue to advance to the statewide ballot.
The 2010 Citizens United ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court rolled back the previous ban on corporate spending in federal elections, opening the door to unlimited corporate funds, which Allen said influences elections, candidate selection, policy decisions and public debate.
Since the 2010 ruling was issued, spending by “Super PACs” – funded by organizations whose contribution limits were lifted – has reached $1 billion. More than $600 million has come from only195 donors and their spouses.
“People across the political spectrum are fed up with unregulated, unaccountable spending in campaigns,” Allen said. “They deserve to have their voices heard on what has become a destructive force in politics and our system of governance.”
SB 254 is the latest step in a multi-year legislative and legal battle. In 2014, the Legislature approved SB 1272 – authored by Congressman Ted Lieu when he was a member of the Legislature – which placed a measure on the November 2014 statewide ballot identical to SB 254.
However, the California Supreme Court ordered that the measure be removed from the ballot while they considered whether the Legislature has the authority to place “advisory” questions on the ballot.
On January 4, the court issued its decision concluding that the Legislature could pose the advisory question to voters because it was related to potential federal constitutional amendments. On Jan. 19, the Legislature filed a petition with the Supreme Court requesting that it modify its opinion and direct the Secretary of State to place the advisory question on the November 2016 general election ballot. Allen and Leno then introduced SB 254 to place the question on the November 2016 ballot.
“I am elated over the news that a ballot measure on Citizens United will be going before California voters this November,” Lieu said. “Since the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United de-cision, which allowed corporations to make unlimited independent expenditures on political activities, we have seen the growing influence of Super PACs – organizations that do not truly represent the will of the American people, but give an outsized voice to the wealthiest individuals. Without limits on campaign contributions, politicians spend too much time catering to special interests and not enough time connecting with everyday Americans. Our founders envisioned a government of the people, by the people and for the people. But that can only occur if every person is able to fairly express their views.”
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