Prop C seeks to reverse Citizens United ruling


Proposition C is a ballot measure designed to draw attention to the big money spent in elections. If it passes, it won't have a direct effect on campaign fundraising, but it will encourage California lawmakers to bring the topic back into the national spotlight.

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court passed the controversial Citizens United ruling. The court removed restrictions on campaign contributions in elections, even by corporations, calling it "protected speech" under the First Amendment.

The decision triggered a massive increase in corporate spending in elections. The backers of Prop C want the ruling reversed.

"Our elections should be of, by and for the people, and not of, by and for special interests that have deep pockets to buy elections," said Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause.

The political watchdog group and the California Public Interest Research Group, or CALPIRG, are behind the Yes on C campaign.

"What Proposition C would do is direct our members of Congress to support a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics," said Emily Rusch, state director of CALPIRG.

Voters have passed identical measures in Colorado and Montana, calling on voters to instruct their representatives in Congress to support a constitutional amendment overturning the court's ruling.

But it is a difficult task. A constitutional amendment needs to be passed by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress, and then three-fourths of the state legislatures have to approve it.

"It's not a small process to amend our Constitution, but it's not a small thing for us to try to reaffirm that it is voters who matter in elections and not special interest money," said Feng.

Raphe Sonenshein with the Pat Brown Institute says an amendment is unlikely, but Prop C backers may still get what they want.

"What I think this is really about is changing the climate of public opinion in the hopes of someday changing the mind of the Supreme Court," he said. "The Citizens United decision was only passed by a five to four majority, and as we've seen in issues like gay marriage, these issues change over time when public sentiment changes."

Prop C is likely to pass, there is no organized opposition. After Los Angeles, the Yes on C backers plan to bring a similar measure to the state ballot.

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