Moral Low Ground


California Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski Introduces Anti-Citizens United Ballot Measure

Bob_WieckowskiA California lawmaker has introduced a ballot initiative that would allow voters to decide whether or not to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.

The court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, a 5-4 decision widely decried as one of the most disastrous in US history, affirms that corporations are people, money is free speech and therefore corporations are entitled to spend as much money as they please influencing the outcome of US elections via “electioneering communications.” Corporations, unions and other special interest groups may not contribute directly to candidates or campaigns, but they can fund ads for candidates. The ruling gave rise to the era of super PACs, “dark money” and accelerated what critics call the corporate takeover of the US political process.

Citizens United has stoked furious voter backlash that transcends political affiliations, although efforts to overturn the ruling are at or near the top of many progressive groups’ priorities list. According to the Huffington Post, voters in Colorado, Montana and 175 cities, including Chicago, San Francisco and half the cities in Massachusetts, passed measures ordering Congress to support a constitutional amendment to overturn the ruling. Not only did all of these measures pass, they did so with 72 to 81 percent of the vote. Even conservative Montanans approved their initiative by 75 percent.

Now Californians may have the chance to vote on a ballot measure regarding Citizens United. Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, has introduced AB 644, which asks:

“Shall the members of the Congress of the United States representing California propose and support, and the California Legislature ratify, an amendment to the United States Constitution that reverses the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission… and limits campaign contributions and spending, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of wealth, may express their views to one another and their government on a level playing field?”

“It’s time to let all Californians have their voices heard,” Wieckowski said in a statement published by the campaign finance reform group Common Cause. “This is an issue that people feel passionately about because they know the system is skewed against the interest of the middle class.”

“There comes a tipping point where people are upset with billionaires having a disproportionate impact on our electoral system,” Wieckowski said.

AB 644 aims to accomplish what lawmakers have been unable to do. So far, 17 bills to pass a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United have been proposed in Congress. None of them have even made it to a floor vote.

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