Los Angeles Puts Citizens United on the Ballot
The Los Angeles City Council took the final step today with a 10-1 vote to put the Common Cause and CALPIRG supported measure on the ballot. This means Los Angeles City Voters will see this question on the ballot in May:
Shall the Voters adopt a resolution that there should be limits on political campaign spending and that corporations should not have the constitutional rights of human beings and instruct Los Angeles elected officials and area legislative representatives to promote that policy through amendments to the United States Constitution?
“This may be the shot heard ‘round the world,” said Derek Cressman, director of Common Cause’s campaign to reverse Citizens United. “Los Angeles can now speak with a voice loud enough to be heard even in the tone-deaf halls of Congress and insist that they take action now to get big money out of our elections.”
The May election represents the first time there has been an open Mayor’s seat since 2001. Voter turnout in Los Angeles local elections has slowly been declining since then and a chance to weigh in on the high-profile issue of Citizens United may encourage higher voter participation. This election also represents the largest electorate so far to have the chance to instruct Congress to pass a constitutional amendment on this topic.
This ballot measure comes in the wake of what was by far the most expensive national election in history. Emboldened by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, outside groups spent over one billion dollars in the presidential election. This past November, Common Cause worked to place and pass similar measures in the states of Colorado and Montana, and municipalities, like Chicago and San Francisco, all passed similar initiatives with greater than 70% of the vote. These measures were only placed on the ballot because of volunteer and activist support, and Los Angeles is no exception. The local Money Out/Voters In Coalition helped to build massive grassroots support for this council vote.
“Unlimited corporate and secret money, undermines the basic principle of one person, one vote,” said Austin Price, field director with CALPIRG. “This gives citizens the opportunity to use the very tools of our democracy to reclaim it from the undue influence of big money.”
The measure was introduced by Councilmember Richard Alarcon, who represents the northeast section of the San Fernando Valley.
“I thank the City Council for voting to allow the people of Los Angeles to weigh-in on the Citizens United decision and continue the momentum that is building across the nation on this important issue,” said Alarcon. “In state after state, and city after city, voters are decisively voicing their support of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and unequivocally state that corporations do not deserve the constitutional rights that people are afforded. I’m pleased that the voters of Los Angeles now have the opportunity to join in this chorus and continue to put pressure on the federal government to overturn the Citizens United decision.”