Capitol Alert

‘Citizens United’ question going on California ballot in November

People protest during oral arguments in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 8, 2013.
People protest during oral arguments in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 8, 2013. Abaca Press file

California voters will get a chance to weigh in on the role of money in politics, with Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday concluding an advisory ballot measure’s long odyssey.

The measure has no binding legal force. It asks whether elected officials should “use all of their constitutional authority,” including proposing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to reverse the United States Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which helped unleash a torrent of campaign money.

That would allow elected officials to make a statement on whether to “allow the full regulation or limitation of campaign contributions and spending, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of wealth, may express their views to one another, and to make clear that corporations should not have the same constitutional rights as human beings,” the measure reads.

“People across the political spectrum are fed up with unregulated, unaccountable spending in campaigns,” Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, who carried the bill moving the measure to the ballot, said in a statement. “They deserve to have their voices heard on what has become a destructive force in politics and our system of governance.”

Legally binding or not, the ballot initiative had to surmount some legal obstacles to get this far. Critics sued, calling a similar 2014 measure a disingenuous attempt to boost voter turnout, and the measure got booted from the ballot. But the California Supreme Court ruled in January that it could proceed, so lawmakers introduced a new bill.

Without signing the bill or making a statement on the measure’s merits, Brown said Wednesday he would allow it to advance to the ballot by taking no action. A spokesman referred to Brown’s statement after allowing the similar 2014 measure to move to the ballot, in which the governor called the Citizens United case “wrongly decided” but warned against making “a habit to clutter our ballot with nonbinding measures.”

“I am not inclined to repeat this practice of seeking advisory opinions from voters,” Brown said at the time.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert

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