Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown puts advisory question on ballot without his signature

Gov. Jerry Brown will allow the placement of an advisory question on the November ballot asking whether Congress should amend the Constitution to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision, but he did so only grudgingly.

Brown’s office announced Wednesday that the Democratic governor would allow legislation placing the question on the ballot to become law without his signature. In a letter to lawmakers the previous day, Brown criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling in the landmark campaign finance case but said “we should not make it a habit to clutter our ballots with nonbinding measures as citizens rightfully assume that their votes are meant to have legal effect.”

Brown’s Department of Finance had opposed the legislation, Senate Bill 1272, by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, citing the cost of printing and mailing additional ballot pages.

The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission held that First Amendment free-speech protections prohibit limiting independent expenditures by corporations and labor unions. Brown said the case “was wrongly decided and grossly underestimated the corrupting influence of unchecked money on our democratic institutions.”

He wrote that he was willing to put the measure on the ballot, despite his reservations, “given the Legislature’s commitment on this issue.”

“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,” he said.

Peter DeMarco, communications director for the Senate Republican Caucus, criticized the measure. He said in an email that it “will waste taxpayer dollars but won’t change anything.”

In a statement, Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause, said the ballot measure would “energize voters statewide” to engage in the issue of campaign finance.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee