Proposition 59: Corporations. Political Spending. Federal Constitutional Protections.

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Passed
The Question: 

Shall California’s elected officials use their authority to propose and ratify an amendment to the federal Constitution overturning the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission?

The Situation: 

There are two main forms of political campaign contributions: Money given directly to candidates, committees that support candidates and political parties; and “Independent expenditures,” money given in support of or in opposition to a candidate without coordination with the candidate’s campaign.           

Before 2010, federal law limited the independent expenditures that corporations and labor unions could make in federal elections. In 2010, however; the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that independent expenditures by corporations and labor unions are protected as "free speech" under the First Amendment, thus there is now no limitation or regulation on how much money can be given by these entities as independent expenditures. This ruling applies to federal, state and local governments. 

In order to amend the Constitution, Congress may propose amendments or call a constitutional convention for the purpose of proposing amendments. In order for a proposed amendment to take effect, it must be ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states. The California Legislature previously has asked that Congress propose an amendment to reverse the effects of Citizens United, or call a constitutional convention for the same purpose.

The Proposal: 

Prop. 59 asks voters whether California’s elected officials should use their authority to propose and ratify an amendment or amendments to the U.S. Constitution that would reverse the effects of Citizens United and related court decisions, allowing government to impose more limits on political campaign contributions and spending, and make it clear the rights in the Constitution are for natural persons only.

This is an advisory measure only, has no legal effect, and does not require any particular action by Congress or the California Legislature.

Fiscal Effect: 

Prop. 59 would have no direct fiscal effect on state and local governments. 

What a YES or NO Vote Means
A YES Vote Means: 

Voters would be asking their elected officials to use their constitutional authority to seek increased regulation of campaign spending and contributions. As an advisory measure, Proposition 59 does not require any particular action by the Congress or California Legislature.

A NO Vote Means: 

Voters would not be asking their elected officials to seek certain changes in the regulation of campaign spending and contributions.

Support & Opposition
Supporters Say: 
  • Corporations and billionaires should not be allowed to continue to buy elections, yet the Supreme Court gave corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts of money in our elections.
  • Overturning Citizens United will open the way to meaningful campaign finance reform that will return ownership of our elections back to ordinary Americans.
Opponents Say: 
  • Prop. 59 is a waste of your tax dollars because it will not change the law. Our ballots should not be clogged with pointless non-binding measures.
  • Instead of working to amend the Constitution, we should work to require the disclosure of political contributions within 24 hours of receipt, year-round.