Asks whether California’s elected officials should use their authority to propose and ratify an amendment to the federal Constitution overturning the United States Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Citizens United ruled that laws placing certain limits on political spending by corporations and unions are unconstitutional.
— Political Spending Advisory Question — Corporations. Political Spending. Federal Constitutional Protections.Legislative Advisory Question —
State of CaliforniaProp. 59 — Political Spending Advisory Question Legislative Advisory Question - Majority Approval Required
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The way it is now
Before 2010, unions and corporations had limits on the amount of money they could spend on political campaigns. In 2010, the United States Supreme Court ruled that corporations are the same as individuals when it comes to political spending (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission). This court decision allows unions and corporations to spend unlimited money on political advertisements before an election. Supreme Court decisions can be changed by amendment to the U.S. Constitution. If the U.S. Congress starts the process of making an amendment, at least 38 state Legislatures need to agree with it.
What if it passes?
A “yes” vote on Prop 59 asks California’s state lawmakers to do everything in their power to reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Because Prop 59 is an advisory question, it only provides lawmakers with public feedback. Voting “yes” or “no” does not guarantee that the U.S. Congress or state lawmakers will move to amend the U.S. Constitution.
Lawmakers may or may not take any specific action. This measure would have no effect on the state budget.
People FOR say
- Prop 59 would send a message that California does not support the Citizens United decision.
- Corporations and billionaires should not be able to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns.
People AGAINST say
- Prop 59 is a waste of time. Propositions should be used for real laws, not advisory questions.
- This does nothing to reduce campaign spending or help us get better information about political donations.
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?
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.
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.
Prop. 59 would have no direct fiscal effect on state and local governments.
- 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.
- 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.
Asks whether California’s elected officials should use their authority to propose and ratify an amendment to the federal Constitution overturning the United States Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
- Citizens United ruled that laws placing certain limits on political spending by corporations and unions are unconstitutional.
- States that the proposed amendment should clarify that corporations should not have the same constitutional rights as human beings.
SUMMARY OF LEGISLATIVE ANALYST’S ESTIMATE OF NET STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT FISCAL IMPACT:
- No direct fiscal effect on state or local governments.
Political Campaign Spending. Many people, corporations, labor unions, and other groups spend money to influence voters’ decisions in political campaigns. This spending includes:
- Direct Contributions. People can give money directly to candidates, political parties, and committees. These direct contributions are subject to federal, state, and local limits. In some cases, federal law does not allow direct contributions. For example, corporations and labor unions may not give money directly to a candidate for a federal office.
- Independent Expenditures. A person makes an “independent expenditure” if he or she spends money to influence voters with no coordination with a candidate or campaign. For example, a person producing a radio commercial urging people to vote for a candidate is making an independent expenditure if the commercial is made without the involvement of the candidate’s campaign.
Independent Expenditures Protected by U.S. Constitution. Before 2010, federal law limited corporations and labor unions’ abilities to make independent expenditures in federal elections. Some California local governments had similar laws for local elections. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court determined in the Citizens United case that independent expenditures made by corporations and labor unions are a form of speech protected under the Constitution. Based on this determination and related court decisions, government may not limit the right of corporations and labor unions to make independent expenditures. This ruling applies to federal, state, and local governments.
Two-Step Process to Change the Constitution. The Constitution may be changed through a two-step “amendment” process. Under this process, described below, only the Congress, state legislatures, and—if called by the Congress—constitutional conventions have a role in changing the Constitution. Since the Constitution became law in 1789, 33 amendments have been proposed and 27 amendments have been approved through this process.
- Step One: The Congress Acts. The process to change the Constitution begins with the Congress either (1) proposing changes or amendments to the Constitution or (2) calling a constitutional convention to propose amendments after the state legislatures of at least 34 states have asked for such a convention. No amendment has been proposed by a constitutional convention.
- Step Two: The States Act. At least 38 states must approve a proposed amendment before it becomes law. Depending on instructions from the Congress, states approve proposed amendments through either the state legislatures or state-level conventions. Historically, only one amendment—the 21st Amendment repealing the prohibition of the sale of alcoholic beverages—has been approved through state-level conventions rather than by state legislatures.
Impartial analysis / Proposal
Proposition 59 asks if California’s elected officials should use all of their constitutional authority—including, but not limited to, amending the Constitution—to:
- Reverse the effects of Citizens United and related court decisions.
- Allow the regulation and limitation of political campaign spending.
- Ensure individuals are able to express political views.
- Make clear that corporations should not have the same constitutional rights as people.
Proposition 59 is an advisory measure only. It does not require any particular action by the Congress or the California Legislature.
This measure would have no direct fiscal effect on state and local governments.
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.
NO vote means
Voters would not be asking their elected officials to seek certain changes in the regulation of campaign spending and contributions.
Vote YES on Proposition 59 to help get big money out of politics and restore a government of, by, and for the people.
Corporations and billionaires should not be allowed to continue to buy our elections.
But that’s exactly what the United States Supreme Court did in the disastrous Citizens United v. FEC ruling. This misguided decision gave corporations the same “rights” as human beings and freed them to spend unlimited amounts of money in our elections. Other recent decisions overturned long-standing laws limiting how much billionaires could spend in an election.
As a result, corporations and their billionaire owners are spending unprecedented amounts of money to tilt the outcomes of our elections in their favor. Corporations and billionaires should not have a greater voice in our elections than California voters. Corporations spend huge amounts of money to influence election results and make it harder for our voices to be heard.
The Supreme Court was wrong and must be corrected.
Corporations play a vital role in our economy. But corporations aren’t people. They don’t vote, get sick, or die in wars for our country. The Constitution was written to protect human beings, not corporations. The rights granted to corporations by the Supreme Court allow them to drown out the voices of real people—as voters, consumers, workers, and small business owners.
We The People should have the right to set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.
Vote YES on Prop. 59 and tell Congress to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that puts an end to this corrosive political spending.
California voters have used ballot measures to instruct and improve our state and local governments before. Prop. 59 allows us to do this on this critical issue.
Real campaign finance reform can only happen with a groundswell of grassroots support from across the country. Let’s do our part and vote YES on Proposition 59.
Help send a message to Congress to act now to strengthen our democracy.
Vote YES on Proposition 59.
BEN ALLEN, State Senator
MICHELE SUTTER, Co-Founder
Money Out Voters In
KATHAY FENG, Executive Director
California Common Cause
PROPOSITION 59 IS A BIG WASTE OF YOUR TIME AND OUR TAXPAYER DOLLARS.
The LEGISLATURE placed this NON-BINDING ADVISORY measure on the ballot to say they want campaign finance reform and want to curb the power of special interests in Sacramento, but it actually does nothing of the kind. Instead, it argues that FREE SPEECH SHOULD NOT APPLY TO small businesses and others who choose to incorporate as a corporation. What this measure fails to accomplish is:
- It FAILS to prohibit or limit corporate contributions to candidates and elected officials.
- It FAILS to prohibit or limit union contributions to candidates or elected officials.
- It FAILS to prohibit or limit corporate contributions to political parties.
- It FAILS to prohibit or limit union contributions to political parties.
Instead, Proposition 59 asks the California members of Congress to change the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Do you really want THIS CONGRESS to tinker with the FIRST AMENDMENT which guarantees and protects:
- Your right to practice your religion?
- Your right to FREE SPEECH?
- Your right to a FREE PRESS?
- Your right to peaceably assemble and associate with others?
- Your right to petition your government?
Supporters of Proposition 59 argue that “corporations aren’t people.” But, many Churches are incorporated. Newspapers and Television networks are incorporated. Facebook, Google, and Twitter are incorporated. Even organizations like Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are incorporated. People shouldn’t lose their Constitutional rights just because they choose to become involved in a company or organization that is incorporated.
Our BALLOTS should NOT be clogged with pointless NON-BINDING measures.
This is the first, but if you vote “yes” it surely won’t be the last. Instead, your NO VOTE sends a clear message to the Legislature:
- Stop WASTING OUR MONEY—This measure costs taxpayers half a million dollars, or more.
- Stop CLOGGING OUR BALLOT with meaningless measures that DO NOTHING.
- Start DISCLOSING political contributions WITHIN 24 HOURS of receipt year-round.
- Start DOING YOUR JOB.Fix our broken education system. Fix our broken roads. Protect us from crime.
Nobody likes the current state of Politics in America or California. But PROPOSITION 59 is just a “feel-good” measure that does NOTHING to increase disclosure of money being spent in politics.
Please VOTE NO on PROPOSITION 59. IT DOES NOTHING.
JEFF STONE, State Senator
KATCHO ACHADJIAN, State Assemblyman
Replies to Arguments FOR
Proposition 59 DOES NOTHING.
Even supporters admit that all this measure does is “send a message to Congress.”
They admit that corporations “play a vital role in our economy.”
The Legislature should focus on doing its job and stop putting meaningless measures on the ballot to ask Congress to limit free speech by overturning the Supreme Court.
Corporations give money. Labor unions give money. People give money. They all do it to support candidates they like and oppose candidates they don’t.
Supporters of Proposition 59 say the people “should have the right to set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.”
Who decides what those reasonable limits are?
Do you really want politicians currently in office to have the power to silence the voice of people or organizations who want to change the way our government works?
Proposition 59 has NO force of law. It DOES NOTHING.
We’ve all agreed with many Supreme Court decisions. We’ve all disagreed with many others.
One thing Democrats, Republicans and Non-Partisan voters CAN agree on is that the Supreme Court should be above politics and above picking winners and losers.
Proposition 59 is a political statement by a select few who want to impose their will on the many. Instead of putting do-nothing advisory measures on the ballot, the Legislature should focus on transparency and start doing the people’s business.
Vote NO on Proposition 59 . . . It DOES NOTHING . . . IT MEANS NOTHING.
JEFF STONE, State Senator
K.H. ACHADJIAN, Assemblyman
Replies to Arguments AGAINST
DON’T BE FOOLED BY THE OPPONENTS’ MISLEADING SCARE TACTICS.
Vote YES on Proposition 59 because if we don’t overturn the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United ruling we will NEVER be able to enact the reforms that we need to PREVENT CORPORATIONS AND WEALTHY SPECIAL INTERESTS FROM BUYING OUR ELECTIONS.
Opponents want you to believe that overturning Citizens United will affect your First Amendment rights. Only BIG MONEY INTERESTS who want to control our elections have anything to fear from overturning Citizens United.
Corporations should not have the same rights as human beings—they should not be allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money to control our elections. BUT THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THE CITIZENS UNITED DECISION LET THEM DO! It struck down limits on corporate and union political spending.
Democrats, Republicans, and independent voters agree that Citizens United should be overturned with a constitutional amendment. Vote YES on Proposition 59 to tell Congress to act.
Overturning Citizens United will open the way to meaningful campaign finance reform that will return ownership of our elections back to ordinary Americans! Voting YES on Proposition 59 will send a clear message to Congress that We the People want OUR voices heard during elections.
Don’t let the opponents fool you—corporations and billionaires should not be allowed to continue to buy our elections.
Vote YES on Proposition 59 to help get big money out of politics and restore a government of, by, and for the PEOPLE.
MARK LENO, State Senator
MICHELE SUTTER, Co-Founder
Money Out Voters In
KATHAY FENG, Executive Director
California Common Cause
Yes on Prop. 59
No on Prop. 59
Below are the top 10 contributors that gave money to committees supporting or opposing the ballot measures.