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Citizens United: California Becomes Sixth State To Call For Amendment Against Ruling

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California became the sixth state in the nation to take an official stand against Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a 2010 Supreme Court ruling.
California became the sixth state in the nation to take an official stand against Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a 2010 Supreme Court ruling.

One of the largest states in the nation took an official stand Thursday against the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which ruled that government restriction of corporation or union spending on political campaigns violated the First Amendment right to free speech.

California joins Hawaii, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maryland and New Mexico in calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court ruling.

State assembly members Bob Wieckowski (D-Calif.) and Michael Allen (D-Calif.) introduced the campaign finance reform bill in January, calling for the federal government to send a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United to all the states for ratification. The measure also would serve as an official symbol of California's disagreement with the ruling.

In an email to The Huffington Post, Wieckowski emphasized California's status as a trendsetter in the fight for campaign finance reform. "A lot of national movements and trends start in California," wrote Wieckowski. "We have the largest population, the most congressional representatives and the largest economy in the country. It was critical for California to take a stand."

The last constitutional amendment was ratified in 1992. When asked about the quixotic nature of his resolution, Wieckowski agreed that the fight for campaign finance reform was a challenge.

"No one is underestimating how difficult it is, and justifiably so, to amend the Constitution," said Wieckowski. "But being silent is worse. Failing to speak out, to organize, to hold rallies and to take action would be much worse."

"That’s how you bring about change in this country. By going to city hall, the state Capitol and making your voice heard and shining a light on the issue."

The moment Citizens United was first decided in 2010, Mary Zhu, a retired physician from Davis, Calif., joined other local activists to make phone calls, write letters and sign petitions against the ruling under the organizing umbrella of the non-profit Public Citizen.

Together with Occupy Davis, Zhu and her friends were able to push the Davis City Council to endorse Wieckowski's bill in February. Now that she's part of a successful statewide effort, to condemn Citizens United, Zhu has no doubt that grassroots activism nationwide will eventually overturn the ruling.

"California is big and powerful, and this resolution will give tremendous encouragement to other groups, Zhu said to The Huffington Post. "It's like a stone that gets thrown in the pond; the water ripples far and wide."

When asked about bipartisan acceptance of large donations in the post-Citizens era, Zhu was realistic about how both Republican and Democratic candidates benefited. "It's the game, and they're stuck in it. I can understand why Obama has to go along with it -- 'You don't bring a knife to a gunfight'," Zhu said.

But to Zhu, the politicians' conundrum also underscored the importance of her work as a private citizen. "We citizens, who have nothing to gain and everything to lose -- it's our job to start screaming loud and clear. This resolution is just the beginning."

Organizations such as Public Citizen, Common Cause, CREDO Mobile, Free Speech for People and the California League of Conservation Voters all advocated for passage of the resolution in the California legislature. Public Citizen circulated a petition signed by more than 50,000 from California, and it has successfully advocated for similar resolutions in states such as Vermont and Maryland.

To learn more about Public Citizen's Democracy Is For People campaign or to sign the petition, check out DemocracyIsForPeople.org.

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