CA Pols Calling For Change To U.S. Constitution

Katy Grimes: California Democrats are pushing for Congress to amend the United States Constitution, and impose limits on political corporate contributions. Really.

At issue is the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision.

In January 2010, the United States Supreme Court  reached the landmark decision which reaffirmed that the First Amendment did in fact, prohibit the government from restricting political expenditures by corporations and unions. The Court stated that political contributions are a form of free speech, and should not be regulated or narrowly tailored by the government for its own interest.

One of the outcomes of the Citizen United decision was the creation of Super Committees and SuperPacs, which may accept unlimited contributions from individuals, unions, and corporations.

Despite the Supreme Court stating that the First Amendment “must protect corporations and individuals with equal vigor,” California Democrats  passed a resolution this week urging Congress to amend the Constitution, and limit corporate contributions to political PACs.

Out of the Ashes…

Thursday, the Assembly voted 48 to 22 to pass Assembly Joint Resolution 22 which calls on Congress to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

However, arguments and floor speeches by Democratic legislators only addressed corporate contributions – Democrats in the Assembly never mentioned union contributions. Democrats said that AJR 22 wasn’t just a resolution, but was part of a national movement to limit and control corporate political contributions.

AJR 22, by Assemblymen Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, and Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, is one of 13 resolutions seeking to overturn Citizens United. Wieckowski said that with his resolution, California will be part of a “grassroots movement that believes corporations are not people and money is not speech,” a quote made famous by David Kairys, the civil rights law professor who warned that the decision would unleash “a new wave of campaign cash and adds to the already considerable power of corporations.”

A recent favorite phrase of Democratic Assembly Speaker John Perez is similar: “Corporations aren’t people until Texas executes one.” Perez made the statement at a labor caucus meeting at the recent Democratic convention.

All of the other 13 resolutions seek to overturn the decision in different ways. Some of the resolutions also claim that corporations are not humans; others would seek more Congressional power to regulate campaign contributions and expenditures more narrowly.

Wieckowski stated that the ruling opened a floodgate for unlimited corporate donations, which he said he opposes. “We’ve had a distortion of the political process because of all the money flowing into politics,” said Allen.

The bill analysis states: This measure would memorialize the Legislature’s disagreement with the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and would call upon the United States Congress to propose and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and to restore constitutional rights and fair elections to the people.

Republicans who opposed the resolution said that the opposite should happen – that government imposed restrictions should be removed from political campaign contributions, and complete disclosure and transparency about who is contributing should be required instead.

“What is a corporation? A corporation is an assembly of people,” said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia. “If you’re regulated by the government, don’t you have the right to address your government?”

MAR. 23, 2012

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