Proposition 59: The People of California vs. The Roberts Court On Citizens United

10/14/2016 05:53 pm ET Updated Oct 15, 2017

Next month on Election Day, California voters will decide whether to direct elected state officials to use their authority to help overturn the 2010 Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. In a reversal of its previous ruling in 2014, the California Supreme Court decided to allow the proposition approved by the state Legislature, to be placed on this year's ballot.

In a clear case of judicial activism, Citizens United reversed over 100 years of federal legislation establishing reasonable limits on campaign contributions. This disastrous decision by the Roberts' Court gave the green light to corporations, including foreign companies, wealthy individuals, advocacy groups and unions to contribute unlimited amounts of cash to help elect or defeat federal candidates.
In a bewildering 5-4 decision which devalues the fundamental right of free speech to junk bond status; the Roberts' Court ruled that the First Amendment, which guarantees free speech to American citizens, also allows corporations and wealthy individuals the right to contribute unlimited sums to influence elections. These undisclosed contributions by undisclosed donors are seriously undermining our electoral process.

Citizens United is a conservative non-profit organization, co-founded in 1988 by Donald Trump's current deputy campaign manager, David Bossie. Bossie has spent decades investigating the Clintons, including his work during the Clinton presidency as a member of the Senate's special committee investigating Clinton investments during the 1980s in the Whitewater Development Corporation.

Citizens United challenged a federal court ruling barring them from buying advertisements, and paying to show its documentary titled "Hillary: The Movie" within 30 days of the Democratic Primaries in 2008. The 2009 ruling was based on the McCain-Feingold campaign reform law signed into law in 2002.

Almost before the ink was dry on the Citizens United decision, President Barack Obama stood before Congress during his 2010 State of the Union address and declared, "I believe it will open the floodgates for special interests -- including foreign corporations -- to spend without limit in our elections."

Unfortunately for our American Democracy, which vests its power in the people, the President's prediction of "open floodgates" of unlimited corporate cash has not only proved to be correct, it has granted the power to wealthy undisclosed individuals and special interests to drown out the voices of average Americans during election cycles.

Since the 2010 decision, spending by outside groups, known as super PACs, has doubled to $486 million. Also since 2010, less than 200 individuals and their spouses have bankrolled $1 billion in super PAC spending.

The Supreme Court's majority decision argued that PACs are not direct contributions because they are considered "independent spending" and are prohibited from coordinating with a candidate's campaign. The reality is that super PACs are often run by individuals with close ties to the candidate.

California, along with 15 other state legislatures -- representing over 94 million Americans -- have already passed resolutions supporting a constitutional amendment to overrule Citizens United. In 20 other states -- representing over 141 million Americans -- pending resolutions are being considered.

If we are to have a functioning American Democracy where the voices of average citizens are reflected in the actions by members of Congress, then we must reestablish reasonable limits on campaign contributions. If we are to end the political gridlock in Washington, we must demand that our elected leaders place the interests of their constituents ahead of wealthy individuals and special interests.

Moreover, we must eliminate the corrosive and corrupting influence of big money in politics, and restore the Democratic principles of our Founding Fathers. By overturning the fundamentally flawed Citizens United decision through a Constitutional Amendment ratified by three-fourths of state legislatures -- our representative form of Democracy can be restored to greatness "from sea to shining sea."
Senator Bernie Sanders said it best from the floor of the U.S. Senate in 2014, "The very foundation of American Democracy is being threatened by a handful of incredibly wealthy people."