SACRAMENTO (CN) — Californians will get to weigh in on unlimited corporate campaign spending and ask Congress to repeal the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, after Gov. Jerry Brown approved an advisory ballot measure Wednesday.
After being cleared by the California Supreme Court in January, the nonbinding measure that tasks California’s congressional members with proposing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United will go to voters in November.
State lawmakers said the 2010 ruling that lifted contribution limits and allows Super PACs to give politicians billions of dollars has become a “destructive force in politics,” and voters should be able to voice their opinion to Congress through ballot measure.
“The Citizens United ruling was ill-advised and harmful to our democratic system of governance,” state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said in a statement. “With enactment of Senate Bill 254, California voters now have an opportunity to express their disapproval of the corrupting influence money has in our political system.”
The Legislature approved a similar bill in 2014 but it was blocked by a lawsuit from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which claimed the proposal held no legal weight but was simply a maneuver to increase Democratic turnout during the gubernatorial election.
The California Supreme Court ordered the state to remove the advisory measure while it weighed the legal challenge.
In January, the court rejected the lawsuit 6-1, finding that state lawmakers have the power to place a nonbinding measure on the ballot.
“We see no evidence the drafters of the California Constitution intended to deprive the Legislature of a tool other state legislatures have long used to ensure they are truly speaking on behalf of their states in the federal constitutional amendment process,” the majority opinion states.
The latest version, SB 254, breezed through the statehouses this spring and was given final approval by Brown on Wednesday.
Brown, who warned lawmakers in 2014 that advisory measures could “clutter” statewide ballots, chose not to veto the bill but cleared it without his signature.
Constitutional amendments must be approved by two-thirds votes in both houses of Congress, and ratified by three-fourths of state governments.
The bill’s author, state Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, said Californians are fed up with unlimited donations and corporate influence in politics.
“People across the political spectrum are fed up with unregulated, unaccountable spending in campaigns,” Allen 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.”
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