Two California legislators have introduced a resolution in the state legislature for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC arguing that the court decision wrongly gives corporations the same First Amendment rights as individuals and will allow them to use advertising to control the outcome of elections. -db
March 5, 2010
By Kenneth Ofgang
Two California lawmakers have introduced a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling on corporate independent expenditures in political campaigns.
Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, and Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, called for passage of Assembly Joint Resolution 3.
The Senate Wednesday moved the measure forward by gutting a previous Nava measure, dealing with offshore oil drilling, and replacing it with language seeking to overturn the Jan. 21 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission.
The decision, which President Obama strongly criticized in his State of the Union address, struck down a federal law barring corporations and labor unions from using general treasury funds to support or oppose candidates for elective office.
“Were the Court to uphold these restrictions, the Government could repress speech by silencing certain voices at any of the various points in the speech process,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote. “If [2 U.S.C.] §441b applied to individuals, no one would believe that it is merely a time, place, or manner restriction on speech. Its purpose and effect are to silence entities whose voices the Government deems to be suspect.”
Nava and Hancock yesterday expressed strong disagreement with the court.
“The Supreme Court has handed special interests a powerful new weapon,” Nava, a candidate for state attorney general, said in a statement. “If an elected official votes against a corporation or interest group, there is now the threat of a corporation or PAC spending unlimited sums advertising against that person’s re-election.”
Hancock called the decision “a shocking reversal of 100 years of bipartisan policy designed to limit special interests’ influence on lawmakers.”
Nava noted that Congress has limited campaign spending by corporations ever since the passage of the Tillman Act, championed by then-President Theodore Roosevelt, in 1907.
“With Citizens United v. FEC, the Court rejected more than 100 years of sound policy regulating corporate spending,” Nava said. “Eliminating the distinction between corporate and individual campaign spending defies reason. Corporations are not people and should not be afforded the same rights.”
The resolution, which quotes Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln on the danger of corporate influence over the country, calls on Congress to “pass and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment to restore the power of Congress and state legislatures to safeguard democracy by placing appropriate limits on the ability of corporations to influence the outcome of elections through political campaign contributions and other expenditures.”
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