Court: Dems Can Put ‘Citizens United’ Measure on CA Ballot

Empty Polling Place California (Frederic J. Brown / AFP / Getty)
Frederic J. Brown / AFP / Getty

On Monday, the California Supreme Court decided to allow Proposition 49, which would advise Congress to overturn the 2010 Citizens United ruling, back on the June 2016 ballot.

The proposition reads:

Shall the Congress of the United States propose, and the California Legislature ratify, an amendment or amendments to the United States Constitution to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) 558 U.S. 310, and other applicable judicial precedents, to allow the full regulation or limitation of campaign contributions and spending, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of wealth, may express their views to one another, and to make clear that the rights protected by the United States Constitution are the rights of natural persons only?”

Proposition 49 was removed from the November 2014 ballot on August 11, 2014 by the state’s Supreme Court. But on Monday, the court ruled 6-1 to reinstate the measure, arguing that the legislature could place advisory measures on the ballot providing a “nexus” existed between the proposition and future actions of the Legislature.

Democrats have vehemently opposed the Citizens United ruling ever since it was issued, while GOP legislators favored it. The case dealt with Citizens United’s Hillary: The Movie, a 2008 documentary. The Federal Election Commission viewed the film as a political advertisement in violation of the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act (BCRA), and wanted to prevent Citizen United’s publicity efforts. Citizen United sued and won, as the Supreme Court ruled that corporations, no less than individuals have a right to political speech, recognizing that freedom of the press and freedom of speech apply to all people, whether or not they choose to organize legally as a PAC, a 527, a 501(c)(4) or a corporation.

Republican-turned-independent Dan Schnur of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, told the Los Angeles Times that the Monday ruling was a “fairly transparent way of attempting to boost Democratic turnout in November,” adding, “Once you have been given the green light to put an initiative on the ballot for only symbolic value, it is going to become very addictive. There is no disincentive to do this year in and year out.”

Stephen Frank, writing in California Political Review, noted that the measure’s author, Congressman Ted Lieu, chortled, “I commend the CA Supreme Court for upholding the law I authored giving voters a say on whether to overturn the disastrous Citizens United case.  This is a significant first step to taking back our democracy.”

Frank pointed out, “The ‘disaster’ the radical Democrat Lieu refers to is the freedom to donate to candidates of your choice, without government limits. Lieu supports massive, unlimited donation from the extortionists union (money they spend is stolen from workers) but opposes the free choice of individuals to spend their own money. That is called totalitarianism.”