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Editorial: Brown should have vetoed advisory vote

Gov. Jerry Brown had it exactly right – an advisory measure on overturning the Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates of corporate cash into politics, will have no legal effect whatsoever and will only clutter the November ballot.

But he should have taken the next logical step and vetoed Senate Bill 1272.

Instead, he let it become law without his signature. That’s called trying to have it both ways – and that’s very disappointing.

Like the governor, The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board believes the U.S. Supreme Court got it wrong in its 2010 Citizens United ruling, and as he says, “grossly underestimated the corrupting influence of unchecked money on our democratic institutions.”

Subsequent decisions eviscerating campaign finance limits, including the McCutcheon ruling in April, have made full and prompt disclosure of donations even more important.

But as Brown also points out in his non-signing statement, the only way to overturn a Supreme Court decision such as Citizens United is for Congress to convene a constitutional convention. The Legislature already has approved a joint resolution urging Congress to do just that.

So what’s the real purpose of Proposition 49, the seventh on the Nov. 4 ballot and counting? Since it was pushed through the Legislature by Democrats over Republican objections, it’s not too much of a stretch to surmise that it’s designed to lure more Democrats to the polls when legislators are trying to keep their seats.

That’s rather cynical. So is allowing Californians to assume that their votes have real meaning, as they do on other ballot measures.

California’s ballots are already too long and too confusing. The only saving grace is that Brown acted in time for Prop. 49 to be included in the principal ballot pamphlet, avoiding the cost of a supplemental one.

“By allowing SB 1272 to become law without my signature, it is my intention to signal that I am not inclined to repeat this practice of seeking advisory opinions from the voters,” Brown writes.

The Governor’s Office says his non-signing statement speaks for itself. It certainly does, loud and clear – he’s willing to pontificate on the right principle, but not so willing that he would show some backbone by ruffling supporters’ feathers and acting on that principle.