Earlier this week, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association filed a legal action seeking to remove an “advisory measure” pleased on the ballot by California’s ultra-liberal legislative Democrats, working in tandem with an equally left-of-center Governor Jerry Brown, in a in a craven effort to try and give liberal voters a reason to turn out and vote this November. According to HJTA, the placing of such a non-binding plebiscite on the ballot is an “illegitimate exercise of legislative power.”
What is the advisory question that Democrats have placed on the ballot, masquerading as Proposition 49? Here is exactly what you will be asked:
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) 557 U.S. 310, and other applicable judicial precedents, to all of 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 it clear that the rights protected by the United States Constitution are the rights of natural persons only?
For those seeking a quick translation of this 85-word long run-on question–liberals are upset that the United States Supreme Court, in its decision in Citizens United v. FEC, held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent political expenditures by associations, corporations and labor unions. They are upset because one of their favorite things to do is pass laws and regulations that impose more and more restrictions on who can make political contributions and how much they can give.
In the wake of the Citizens United ruling, many interests on the right and left have turned to so-called “Super PACS” to play into political races in a big way. Probably the highest-profile examples of this kind of activity on the right are the hundreds of millions raised and spent by the separate efforts of libertarian brothers Charles and David Koch, tied in the #6 spot for richest persons on the planet–and the bundling activities of GOP political strategist and former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove.
This is an issue that has the granola-eating, hardcore lefties seething. To these folks, they see it as fundamentally unfair that just because someone has more money than someone else, they should be able to spend at will to seek to influence voters on the issues at hand. If pressed, many of these folks would tell you that they would just a soon see all political campaigns in American publicly financed with our tax dollars. The standard bearer for Proposition 49, which passed on a party-line vote out of the legislature as SB 1272, is its author, Democrat State Senator Ted Lieu, who happens to be running for Congress to replace the retiring Henry Waxman. It was disappointing to see Lieu concoct such obviously biased language for this effort, which would presumably help boost liberal turnout for his own campaign.
Governor Brown, in an action that caused him to get an editorial rebuke from the lefty Sacramento Bee editorial board, declined to veto this legislation (which at the same time declining to sign it, which means it becomes law without his signature). In a statement released with his “non signing” of SB 1272, Brown actually says, “We should not make it a habit to clutter our ballots with non-binding measures as citizens rightfully assume their votes are meant to have legal effect.”
Brown’s refusal to bar such political gamesmanship with the ballot is yet another demonstration that while some try to construct a narrative that he sits as some sort of “adult supervision” over the ultra-liberal legislature, in reality he does not.
Apparently, in their zeal to try to fire up a moribund base going into the election, the Democrat-controlled legislature may very well have overstepped its actual authority. The HJTA, working with well-respected political law attorney Tom Hiltachk, has filed a legal action directly in the Court of Appeal, making the case in its brief that the legislature simply does not have the authority under the State Constitution to place “advisory issues” onto the ballot. It’s worth noting that recently HJTA won another lawsuit against the legislature regarding the manipulation of the ballot material in conjunction with the now-infamous statewide bond measure to partially finance construction of a High Speed Rail system.
“It is disappointing that the majority in the legislature view the elections process as their personal plaything,” said Jon Coupal, President of HJTA.
Californians should take heed: this is the kind of chicanery that takes place virtually unchecked when you have single party rule in the State Capitol.