Capitol Alert

Calif. appeals court says Citizens United measure should stay on ballot

A California appeals court on Thursday tossed out a lawsuit seeking to block a ballot measure asking whether Congress should overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United campaign finance decision.

Proposition 49 proponents issued a statement cheering the decision even as those behind the challenge vowed to appeal the case to the California Supreme Court.

“We’re delighted that voters will have a chance to collectively speak out against big money in politics with their votes,” said Michele Sutter, chairman of the Yes on 49 “Money Out Voters In” campaign. “How ironic it would have been for courts to tell us that billionaire campaign spending is free speech but that Californians can’t even speak back with our votes.”

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association filed the lawsuit in the Sacramento-based Third District Court of Appeals last week, arguing that the measure should be removed because the ballot is reserved for lawmaking. In citing Gov. Jerry Brown’s refusal to sign Senate Bill 1272, the opponents said it amounted to a cynical attempt by the Democratic-controlled Legislature to boost voter turnout in the fall election.

On Thursday, they acknowledged that the timing of an appeal is “very, very tight.”

The court rejected the suit on a 2-1 vote, without comment.

Proposition 49’s backers said they generated 55,000 e-mails, 176,000 faxes and hundreds of visits to the state Capitol urging the Legislature to place the measure on the ballot. They noted Californians have used this process of “advise and instruct” ballot measures in the past to try to pass amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

In the 2010 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that free-speech protections do not allow limiting independent expenditures by corporations and unions.