California Voters vs. Citizens United


This morning, California took a historic step towards putting voters first over big money special interests. California Assembly Member Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, introduced Assembly Bill 644, legislation that will place a question on the 2014 General Election ballot to give California voters the opportunity to directly express their opinion on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and direct the state’s congressional delegation to support a constitutional amendment to allow limits on political contributions and spending.

This Common Cause-sponsored legislation follows grassroots ballot victories in the states of Colorado and Montana and the California cities of San Francisco and Richmond in November 2012. The San Francisco and Richmond measures were approved with 81% and 72%, respectively. Last month the City of Los Angeles, California also approved a “voter instruction” measure that will appear on the city’s election ballot in May 2013.

AB 644 will ask California voters the following question:

Shall the members of Congress of the United States representing California propose and support, and the California Legislature ratify, an amendment to the United States Constitution that reverses the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (2010) 558 U.S. 310, and limit campaign contributions and spending, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of wealth, may express their views to one another and their government on a level playing field?

“Last year, we were able to express the California Legislature’s support for a constitutional amendment,” Wieckowski said.  “Now it’s time to let all Californians have their voices heard.  This is an issue people feel passionately about because they know the system is skewed against the interests of the middle class.”

“Giving every Californian a chance to declare that money isn’t free speech is exactly the sort of high-profile step that is required if we are serious about reversing the Supreme Court,” said Derek Cressman, director of Common Causes campaign to reverse Citizens United.  “Voter instruction measures such as this have spurred previous constitutional amendments,” he added. 

In addition to the voter instruction measures mentioned above, dozens of jurisdictions nationwide have approved resolutions denouncing Citizens United and in support for a constitutional a
mendment. Assembly Bill 644 was introduced days after the Supreme Court of the United Stated announced it will review the aggregate contribution limits to federal candidates. This adds urgency to reform measures in order to check the Court with a constitutional amendment.

Assembly Bill 644 must be approved by the Legislature by a simple majority vote and earn the signature of Governor Jerry Brown.

Sign up to be a Citizen Co-Author of this historic legislation. Grassroots activists are the only way we get this work done – that’s how we got the resolution passed in the state last year, allowed voters in San Francisco, Richmond, and Los Angeles to weigh in, and now we need you to help give all California voters that chance! 

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Phillip Ung is California Common Cause’s policy advocate. Follow him on Twitter @PhilRUng.

5 Responses to “California Voters vs. Citizens United”

  1. Our small city of Brecksville, Ohio voted by citizens petition initiative to support the Move to Amend position and to create, by ordinance, a Democracy Day. Once every 2 years following the general election the city will hold a town hall meeting to discuss the effects of money in politics. To get this issue on the ballot, our group Brecksville Citizens for Transparent Politics, had to fight all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court. The Court voted in support of our issue appearing on the ballot. Our first meeting is Feb 25, 2013. See link below for more information:

  2. I believe money in politics has corrupted our government to the point it no longer functions and I’m glad to see the people of California taking action. However, even if they are successful there will still be too much money in politics and I don’t believe that at this point Congress is capable of regulating itself. I believe it is necessary for a Constitution Amendment that would seriously limit what one can contribute to a candidate and eliminate any spending by anyone that is not a candidate. We also need severe penalties (serious jail time) for those that misuse their campaign funds.

  3. That’s great — however Common Cause amendment does not correct the problem that caused Citizen’s United. It’s kinda stupid. End Corporate Personhood – and End Money period in elections.

  4. I don’t see how this gives Californians the cance to declare that money isn’t free speech when there is no mention of it in the bill. Money in politics was a problem long before Citizens United. This bill doesn’t seem adequate to fully address the problem. We are California and we are used to being out front. I hope someone will talk Member Weickowski into a better bill. Constitutional amendments are hard to accomplish so let’s formulate one that is comprehensive. Bill Bradley said money in politics is like ants inthe kitchen. It you don’t plug every hole it will find a way to get in.

  5. I don’t see how this gives Californians a chance to declare that money isn’t free speech when it’s not mentioned in the bill. Money in politics has been a problem since long before the Citizens United decision. This bill doesn’t seem to fully address the problem. We are California and our state commonly leads the nation so it is important that the bill be comprehensive. Let us urge Member Weickowski to strengthen the bill. Sen. Bill Bradley has said ” Money in politics is like ants in the kitchen. If you don’t plug every hole, it will find a way to get one.”