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Santa Monica Senator’s Measure Challenging "Citizens United" Cleared for Ballot
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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

June 10, 2016 -- California voters will be able to weigh in on the controversial 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that banned campaign spending limits for corporations on First Amendment grounds thanks to a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Ben Allen of Santa Monica.

The bill calls for a non-binding measure to be placed on the November ballot that says California’s representatives in Congress should support one or more Constitutional amendments to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Gov. Jerry Brown allowed the measure to go on the ballot by not vetoing the bill Wednesday. However, he also did not sign the bill.

“People across the political spectrum are fed up with unregulated, unaccountable spending in campaigns,” Allen said in a statement.

He continued, “They deserve to have their voices heard on what has become a destructive force in politics and our system of governance.”

An almost identical bill written by Allen’s predecessor, Ted Lieu, was approved by the State Legislature two years ago, and a measure looked to be headed for the ballot that year after Brown neither vetoed nor signed the bill.

The California Supreme Court blocked the election in 2014 while it pondered whether advisory bills could be on the ballot.

The court ruled in January of this year that this type of advisory measure was valid, but a new bill was needed since Lieu’s legislation specifically called for an election in 2014.

Lieu said in a statement he was “elated” California voters could weigh in on the issue.

“Since the Supreme Court's disastrous Citizens United decision, which allowed corporations to make unlimited independent expenditures on political activities, we have seen the growing influence of Super PACs -- organizations that do not truly represent the will of the American people, but give an out-sized voice to the wealthiest individuals,” wrote Lieu.

Citizens United is a conservative nonprofit group that wanted to air its critical film Hillary: The Movie on cable television in 2008, but was not allowed to do so based on federal campaign spending rules.

The group fought this ban all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation’s top justices ruled in a 5-4 decision that independent expenditures by nonprofits could not be capped. This opinion extended to corporations and unions.

Many people blame this decision for increased spending in campaigns and say corporations should not have the same free-speech rights as people.

Gov. Brown said in a message to go along with his non-decision on Allen’s bill that he too opposed the Citizens United decision, but warned against making it “a habit to clutter our ballots with non-binding measures, as citizens rightfully assume that their votes are meant to have legal effect.”

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