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People, Not SuperPACs, Should Decide Our Elections

by: Luis Lopez

Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 15:51:51 PM PDT

Maybe it's our winter sunshine while snow falls elsewhere-or how we embrace innovation and welcome eccentrics rejected in other places. Some Californians presume our state a haven from the nastiest aspects of American life. But we are not.

Now the fallout from a dangerous U.S. Supreme Court ruling is hitting our political landscape. Stopping the corrupting effects of the 2010 Citizens United decision is a serious and important challenge. The ruling has already prompted the rollback of some hard-won checks on special interests' domination of elections in California. It further tilts the playing field against the election of community-based leaders and in favor of candidates bankrolled by special interests and beholden to their big-money marketing blitzes.

Citizens United threatens governance of, by, and for the people. It's no coincidence that the first national election under this ruling was the first in 40 years in which the ranks of women state legislators actually shrank, significantly. California's progress on diversity and openness in public service and our hopes of fixing revenue collection and preserving schools and vital services hang in the balance as long as Citizens United remains the law of the land. Because it hinders our capacity to elect leaders who truly reflect and will stay accountable to our communities, Californians should demand its reversal.

Luis Lopez :: People, Not SuperPACs, Should Decide Our Elections
It was just over two years ago that a narrow 5-to-4 majority on the high court announced the sweeping decision in the case of Citizens United. The ruling bulldozed more than a century of curbs on corporate spending in elections, including California's limits at the local, school board, and county level. This is not about a cash-filled brief case. We're talking dump trucks. The ruling paved the way for millions of dollars in unlimited independent expenditures by businesses and political action committees on steroids called super PACs. The reasoning? That any barriers unfairly burden the free expression of companies.

Corporations as people, with spending called free speech? For Californians, the ruling worsens an election forecast already filled with mailers praising or deploring candidates, sent by outside interests disguised in pious names. Voters who scratch their heads trying to detect the origins of these postcards or glossy hit pieces that clog their mailboxes should get ready to rub their scalps raw, thanks to Citizens United.

Sharp criticism of the ruling has united a bipartisan coalition that ranges from Occupy Wall Street to President Obama to Reagan appointee to the Supreme Court and former justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Alarm bells that O'Connor has sounded about corporate money swaying races for judge and state supreme courts have motivated some Republicans to join in the reform push.

Right here in Los Angeles, the city council unanimously passed a resolution condemning the ruling. The Montana state supreme court showed courage in defying Citizens United and defending the state's barriers to corporate electioneering. Lawmakers in both New Mexico and Hawaii passed similar resolutions, as have scores of cities, towns, and town meetings in states such as Vermont.

This push is too important to allow anti-labor activists to misdirect its passion. Some extremists in California have used the ruling, which unleashed union spending along with corporations', as an excuse to launch a ballot measure meddling in how unions collect members' dues and make their voices heard. With stats from 2010 showing that overall election spending by corporations outpaced unions' by more than 4 to 1, and worse in many states, lashing out at labor is the wrong approach.

What's needed is a full-scale challenge to the ruling, from state lawmakers, members of Congress, stockholders, and voters.

First, California lawmakers should join colleagues in other states by showing their resolve to undo the ruling and stand behind our local standards. California's delegates in Congress should push for a constitutional amendment to reverse the ruling and allow states to set their own limits on special interests' spending. Stockholders should tell corporations in which they're invested that campaigning is best left to candidates and elections, to the electorate. Americans should stand behind the President who opposes the ruling, and whose appointee on the Supreme Court dissented from it. And California voters should turn a careful eye on candidates fueled by outside interests and turn back their efforts to dominate elections. Students, seniors, public servants, small businesspeople, and struggling middle class families are depending on someone to stand up for fairness and fight for them, not bend to the special interests. I know whose side I'm on.

Luis Lopez is a Democratic candidate for Assembly in the 51st District. The district covers East L.A., where Lopez was born and works as a nonprofit healthcare director, and Northeast Los Angeles, where he has lived and served for a decade as neighborhood council member and planning commissioner.  For more information, please go to LopezforAssembly.com

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Finally! (0.00 / 0)
Glad someone is bring attention to this important issue.  Mr. Lopez is exactly right.  Citizens United threatens CA's democracy as much as it threatens our nation's.

Right on Luis! (0.00 / 0)
The problem of money in poltics is the root of so many of so many of our government's failings... keep spreading the word. Up here in Nevada City, we are with you. Just this past week, our city counci unanimously an anti-Citizens United resolution: http://bit.ly/GEYkjo

And thank you for calling out the 'paycheck protection' initiative for the attack on workers that it really is. That initiative has nothing to do with real campaign finance reform.

er (0.00 / 0)
that's 'unanimously passed'

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