California, one of the largest states in the nation took an official stand Thursday against the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which ruled that government restriction of corporation or union spending on political campaigns violated the First Amendment right to free speech, reports The Huff Post.
State assembly members Bob Wieckowski (D-Calif.) and Michael Allen (D-Calif.) introduced the campaign finance reform bill in January, calling for the federal government to send a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United to all the states for ratification.
The measure also would serve as an official symbol of California’s disagreement with the ruling.
The last constitutional amendment was ratified in 1992.
Wieckowski emphasized California’s status as a trendsetter in the fight for campaign finance reform. “A lot of national movements and trends start in California,” wrote Wieckowski in an email to The Huff Post.
“We have the largest population, the most congressional representatives and the largest economy in the country. It was critical for California to take a stand,” Wieckowski wrote.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters in a conference call: “We must amend the constitution to fix Citizens United.”
Pelosi’s latest call to action was spurred by Monday’s Supreme Court decision to overturn Montana’s 1912 law limiting corporate spending in political campaigns based on its 2010 Citizens United ruling, writes Daily Cos.
The Supreme Court’s decision led Montana’s governor Brian Schweitzer (D) and Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger (R) to call for a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision.
Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s press secretary, said: “We were hopeful that the Montana case would be an opportunity for the Supreme Court to reconsider their decision in Citizen’s United, but they decided not to.”
Bob Wieckowski agreed that the fight for campaign finance reform was a challenge.
“No one is underestimating how difficult it is, and justifiably so, to amend the Constitution,” said Wieckowski. “But being silent is worse. Failing to speak out, to organize, to hold rallies and to take action would be much worse.”
“That’s how you bring about change in this country. By going to city hall, the state Capitol and making your voice heard and shining a light on the issue,” he said.
Citizens United overturned provisions of a law once known as McCain-Feingold, after its main sponsors, Republican Sen. John McCain and Democrat Russ Feingold.
According to Los Angeles Times, the law was “an outright ban, backed by criminal sanctions” (as JusticeAnthony M. Kennedy’s majority opinion said) on corporations advocating the election or defeat of a candidate, or issuing any other “electioneering communication,” within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary.
If the law had been aimed at individuals, it would have been obviously unconstitutional, but orporations are artificial entities, designed and built by the government. Human beings may decide to organize themselves as a corporation, but they don’t have a constitutional right to exercise their constitutional rights in that form.
Organizations such as Public Citizen, CREDO Mobile, Common Cause, Free Speech for People and the California League of Conservation Voters all advocated for passage of the resolution in the California legislature.
Public Citizen circulated a petition signed by more than 50,000 from California, and it has advocated for similar resolutions in states such as Vermont and Maryland.